Friday, November 29, 2013

Catching Fire

Books to Movies is a feature where I review movies based off books! These reviews are for people who have read the book, so spoilers are definitely within.

Rated: PG-13

Is it worth watching?

As a casual viewer who knows nothing about the books, it's entertaining. As a viewer who knows about the books . . . Well, it's truer to the book than The Hunger Games was to its book. Is it the world's best movie ever on earth? Well, no; not even close. But it isn't boring.

Is it clean?

It has 1 s-word, and 2 bleeped out f-words (you can't hear them, but it doesn't take a genius to know what Johanna is saying).

How is the cast?

In my original review of The Hunger Games, I said that my biggest complaint for Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss was that she was too old. That is still my biggest complaint, but after several rewatches of the first movie, and after seeing this one, I actually have more than just that complaint. While Jennifer Lawrence isn't horrible, she wouldn't have been my top pick as Katniss. She's too old and not built properly. Katniss is supposed to be a small-built person; Jennifer Lawrence (and this isn't a slur against her, so please don't take it that way) has hips and has a chest; she's not a small person. She's pretty, but she's also glamorous, and Katniss isn't supposed to be glamorous. Josh Hutcherson is still a dreadful Peeta; I can't believe they cast him. And Liam Hensworth is clearly too old and should be playing a werewolf, not Gale. Finnick could have been done better, but I also didn't dislike the actor who played him; he did a fairly good job, though he looked nothing like how I pictured Finnick. Johanna was perfect, though not as creepy as she was in the book. Still, she had the right attitude and right amount of untrustworthiness. Beetee and Wire were also very well done, as well as Mags.

Did the story stay close to the book?

For the most part, yes. They still have not introduced the concept of the Avox, which still bothers me, and they of course shortened the Victory Tour, but I'm not going to complain about that. That was probably my least favorite part of the book, and they used that time in the movie to establish the unrest, the game President Snow and Katniss were playing, and what brought about the Quarter Quell. And then they jump into the games, which is the part that most people want to see anyway. They cut out several smaller things, which was sad, but that's what the book is for, right? The arena they did perfectly, and to be a little honest, that was the main thing I cared about. The arena is soooooo cool, and if they didn't get that right, I knew I would be disappointed. But they did!

Did they even get the little things right?

Well, once Peeta announces that Katniss is "pregnant" (which she isn't), everyone seems to forget about that, which of course didn't happen in the book. The sea monster is taken out, the Avox are taken out, Haymitch is too nice to Katniss, and the whipping scene with Gale was rather anticlimactic. Katniss doesn't get drunk (not complaining), and they don't talk at all about how she and Peeta have "hobbies" that they take up after the Games (i.e. Peeta's baking, Katniss designing clothes that Cinna actually designs for her). And President Snow has a granddaughter, which I don't recall ever being mentioned in the books (if it is, please let me know!) But many of the other things - namely, the arena, they do get right. I loved how they did the fog and the monkeys and the lightning tree (wish we could have seen the blood rain). The deaths of some of the characters weren't as effective as they were in the book, but I suppose I can led that slide a bit.

But the ending is good, right?

Considering that the arena is part of the whole climax, yes, the end is very good. And also as abrupt as the book, but that means it's staying close to the book, right? The end (arena included) are the best done parts. Overall, though, I think this movie was just better than the first one. There's no shaky camera, the storyline is more intense, and it just felt like they spent more money on it. And while I'm still not a fan of the main cast, it does feel like even they stepped up their game a bit more in this one.

So if I absolutely adore the book, will I like the movie?

Let me say this: I have a friend who I made read the books before she even saw the first movie. I agree the first movie isn't nearly as good as the book, but even I didn't react as badly to it as my friend did. It was akin to pulling her nails out with rusty pliers. Her expectations of the Catching Fire movie were not high, but she actually came away from it not massively irritated. She doesn't wholly know what she thinks of it yet (and to be honest, neither do I, though I know I didn't hate it), but her reaction at least wasn't immediate anger. So, if you absolutely adore the book, you probably won't love the movie. But I don't think you'll hate it, either. Aside from the main cast being all messed up (I suppose there isn't a whole lot they can do about that now), they actually did a pretty good job this time through. And if you're like me and the your favorite part of the entire book was the arena, you'll really enjoy the visuals the movie offers.


  1. It's odd. This really seems like the type of series I should love, but I still haven't felt any urge to read the second book or see the movie.

    I think, if I have time once NaNoWriMo ends (one day more!), I'd be more likely to go see Thor: The Dark World or Frozen. Or The Book Thief -- I know someone begging to see that.

    1. Definitely DO NOT see the movies before reading the books; just don't. You may end up being one of those people who actually does like the movies over the books, but I wouldn't risk it. Because if you're NOT one of those people, you'll never read the books.

      As for the books themselves - they're entertaining. I want to redo my reviews because I was initially generous with my first ratings. I think you will like Katniss in Book #1, but will get frustrated with her in Books #2 and #3. However, I do think you'll like Peeta, and he does make finishing the trilogy worthwhile even if you get tired of Katniss' emotional breakdowns. They're definitely not the world's greatest books on earth, but they're fun, easy weekend reads.

      Oh, I'm DYING to see THE BOOK THIEF! I'm so irritated that it's a limited release movie, which means no theaters near me are playing it! So I guess I'll be waiting until it's on DVD (and yes, I'll review the movie!)

    2. I did read Book 1 and put down Book 2 not even a chapter in (which is weird for me). I don't remember liking Peeta or Katniss, though I seem to remember really hoping Peeta died. I think I liked the general idea or premise of the world and situation, but not necessarily where the author went with it.

      I still haven't read The Book Thief, but I suppose I better get on it (after LAST DAY of Nanowrimo) since a couple nearby theaters will be showing it. I can read a book after seeing the movie, but I prefer to read the book first if possible.

    3. What didn't you like about Peeta? Out of all of them, he was the most sensible and just a really nice guy. The first part of Book #2 is slow, that is definitely true. But you do know that there's a second Games in it, right?

      I'm happy now, because a local theater actually is playing THE BOOK THIEF tomorrow. Yay!

    4. Again, I think it's weird that I didn't latch onto these books because, on paper, they're theoretically the kind of story I would enjoy. But I think I disliked 1) knowing almost exactly where the story was going, and not liking the direction, from the get-go, and 2) almost feeling a little ... I'll kick myself for using this word later but, manipulated. Like I saw all these points and ideas the author was raising and the characters/story didn't stand out enough to cover them for me, so it read kind of like any other agenda toting tome.

      Who knows? Maybe I'll go back to it one day when my brain is behaving less cynically and critically (and is preferably turned off), but until then, c'est la vie.

      I think I disliked Peeta because he was too nice of a guy and, more importantly, was "in love" with Katniss. No love triangles, particularly with a sappy back-story that, notwithstanding, does not make up for his lack of a spine and lack of speaking to her for years.

      Also, I saw "The Book Thief" today. Haven't read the book yet (curse you, Nanowrimo!), so I don't know how close it stuck, but the film was pretty awesome. Definitely well done.

  2. Cool feature comparing books to movies! I have to agree that this movie was better than the first, but I was kind of expecting that because the second book is my favourite.
    I have similar complaints to the movie as well regarding the smaller things. Especially the avox concept and the part regarding the wedding preparations they left out. But I guess I understand that a movie can't be exactly as the book, editing must be done in the sake of time, and as you said details are what the books are for. So overall, I think the movie was as true as possible, but of course, the book is better.
    Regarding Snow's granddaughter, she does in fact exist, but she is not mentioned until the last book. She is brought up as possible tribute. I liked what they did with her in the movie though.

    1. I was expecting the second movie to be better, too, because I knew they would focus on the Capitol's crackdown and the arena was just awesome.

      Yeah, they do have to shorten things for movies, but I really wish they had left the Avox in, because that, in my opinion, revealed so much about how bad the Capitol really is.

      Thank you for telling me that! I couldn't for the life of me remember him having one, but that also didn't seem like something the makers would just add. Good to know, and it actually does make sense for them to introduce her in the second movie.

  3. Worth the watch, especially if you want to see this story continue on and develop some more. Good review Mara.

    1. Glad to know you enjoyed the movie, Dan! :) I'm still a bigger fan of the books, but I actually think that the movie adaptions of MOCKINGJAY will in fact be better than the movie. So I'm excited for those to come out.

  4. I had a completely opposite experience watching this movie. I thought Jen Lawrence was fabulous, her acting skills are more important to me then if she is a little old. While Peeta isn't what I was expecting either he grew on me more in this movie then the last.

    Maybe it was because I had such a bad experience with Ender's Game but I think Catching Fire is an example of a book to movie adaptation done right.

    1. That's funny - I actually loved ENDER'S GAME, and it's not just because I'm a big fan of Asa Butterfield. I hated the book, but I loved the movie. Jennifer Lawrence's acting skills are fine, but I just don't think she suits Katniss. And since Peeta was my favorite character in the trilogy, for me they needed to get him perfect, and they didn't. Like I said in my review, I believe the actors all did their best - they just aren't the right choice for the characters.


Thank you for visiting The Reading Hedgehog! The hedgie and I love hearing from our readers, so please feel free to leave a comment or question! I always try to reply within a day or two. Please keep all comments civil and clean.