Catching Fire pleases fans but may deter casual viewers PHOTO: CC License X-Money
With a blistering opening weekend box office performance of over $ 161.1 million, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire certainly had audiences’ attention. Strong performances and emotional depth lifted the film above its predecessor, aggregating a whopping 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. Unfortunately, vague backstory and a lack of supporting character development gave the film an inaccessible tint that those who have not read the books may find overwhelming.
Although the first film, The Hunger Games, certainly had its memorable moments, overall, the acting left a bit to be desired. Much of this could be attributed to the film’s lack of emotional depth. In particular, much of Katniss’ (Jennifer Lawrence) internal struggle was skirted over, giving the character a cold and uninteresting look that Lawrence was surprisingly able to carry. Catching Fire remedied this issue, providing ample opportunity for emotional development in a few of its more prominent characters.
Furthermore, audiences received a surprisingly notable performance from Josh Hutcherson. Hutcherson presented the awkward and hurt persona of Peeta with a convincing poise that was absent in the first installment. Giving the character more screen time and interaction allowed viewers to relate to and connect with him in a more meaningful manner.
Regrettably, Catching Fire’s unexplained backstory may prove to be a deterrent for those who have not read the books. In particular, the mentioning of “District 13” is surprisingly vague and easily unnoticed.
For those who have not read the book, District 13 is an area in the country that was allegedly destroyed during the rebellion. Its destruction is used as a threat and constant reminder to the other districts of what would happen if they rebelled.
Given the critical position that the district plays in the series’ plot, one would think that its backstory would be featured more prominently. Unfortunately, the audience receives nothing more than an offhanded mentioning or two throughout the film. While this may have worked for the first installment, Catching Fire’s cliffhanger ending loses much of its edge due to its absence.
Furthermore, many of the supporting characters have remained significantly underdeveloped. In particular, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), the third member of the series’ love triangle, remains inexplicably irrelevant. Despite the fact that the character is present in only a handful of scenes throughout the film, the audience is expected to empathize with the character. Once again, while those who have read the series may be able to do this, casual audience members may find his presence unnecessary or confusing.
Overall, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is an entertaining film that will visually satisfy fans and casual viewers alike. But with flimsy exposition and underdeveloped characters, it is unlikely to emotionally stir non-fanatics.