tl;dr: Don't bother. A movie with no purpose.

When I first watched "The Hunger Games" with my brothers they'd already seen it once but we were still in awe. That therewas a good movie, certainly a book worth reading if only half as fulfilling.

When we exited the movie theater after "Catching Fire", our reaction was one of utter meh. While trying to figure out which way were the bathrooms, we all competed to outmeh each other before, during, and after taking a leak. The youngest brother gave two mehs, my mother three. Our middle sibling who I was trying to get on board with reading the books expressed the mildest of enthusiasm; I of course tried to pump it up by recounting all the best parts of what we'd all just seen: Weren't those monkeys scaaaaary? Did you seeeeeee how Katniss destroyed that arena? It reflects poorly on someone when they recommend a poorly crafted film (because the reviews were good and the book was too). I became "that guy" who made everyone sit through a 2 ½ hour-long movie on the basis of speculation.

After suffering through this global phenomenon my first thought was of "The Killer Inside of Me" (2010). Casey Affleck plays a deputy sheriff who commits a murder in the course of some shady business, causing secrets from his past to bubble up faster than a Texas oil gusher blah blah blah. Some middling camerawork, several instances of Kate Hudson pouting, and one terrible CGI explosion later, it failed to make the parallel expansions that are the gold mines of adaptation (cf. The Ring). A disturbing, at-times nonsensical novella was talentlessly visualized in a drily linear regimen save for flashbacks of Affleck and Jessica Alba carousing on her"whoring bed". This far out it is impossible to distinguish the memory of my reader's imagination from the director's artfail but our visions collated all too well.

Oh yes, I was supposed to be reviewing Catching Fire.

I never did purchase a copy of the book. It is available for free from my public library. I would not have paid $9.25 to listen to the audiobook clocking in at eleven hours and thirty-seven minutes. That is free at the HCPLC, too. But that is the amount paid for my ticket to go see "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire", which amounted to a radio teleplay of a book I'd read four days beforehand.

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I see what you did there, Hollywood: exactly what you did with Harry Potter and Twilight. I see how the filmmakers outdid themselves on the special effects with Catching Fire's tremendous budget. The monkeys were amaze. The glowing cinders Katniss and Peeta Bread left in their wake on the chariot ride were nuts. The Capitol fleshed out nicely, and the now-omnipresent hovercraft even got some plasma propellers. Katniss and Peeta look lovelier than ever (Peeta especially looking a bit fuzzier and well-built in those drapey Capitol fabrics). Jennifer Lawrence's performance starts off on a bitterweet note with a close-up of her eyes gazing at the lake. This turkey of a movie then shot its wad early with its best scene, Katniss hallucinating that she's shot an arrow into Rue's killer.

But special effects cannot make up for a lack of innovation from the source material. In the first movie, the filmmakers artfully invented wholesale scenes and plotlines to fill the void beyond Katniss' narrow ken (i.e. anything with Coriolanus Snow and Seneca Crane), a lesson entirely lost on the director and screenwriters of Catching Fire, none of whom could pull a turd out of their ass if their life depended on it. With the omission of Bonnie and Twill in the woods and the transmission meant for the Mayor, District 13 and the rebellion arises out of the end like an awkward erection in the middle of class, leaving the selfless actions of the tribute-rebels incomprehensible.

I observed the inclusion of Hunger Games minutiae that an eager fan would pick up on. By design the only entertainment Catching Fire provides is in detecting the patchwork of direct references to the book in dialogue (There is no District 12), set design (shimmering force field panels), perhaps President Snow's slightly bloody backwash or the ¡bearded! Seneca Crane dummy Katniss strings up. But some absolutely necessary details were missing: Heavensbee's mockingjay watch is curiously absent. Five seconds could not be spared for the most meaningful watch in the world in a movie about an arena shaped like a clock. President Snow is not reading a book in Katniss' study, where he has nothing to do but gawk at the poors, yet he decides to read a book in the middle of the Third Quarter Quell That Will Decide The Fate of Panem Forever. And Gale knocks down Thread immediately upon his arrival. No shit he's going to get whipped in the square; in present-day America you'd be shot on sight for tackling a police officer.

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Past the newly bombastic music, Effie's reformed accent and overwrought costumes (even by Capitol standards), I did find one trinket worthy of acclaim: the twelve districts' striking resemblance to modern and historical United States. Doesn't the Victors' Village look like any one of the foreclosed subdivisions dotting Florida? Aren't Katniss, Gale and the environs of District 12 beautified versions of some bizarro Deliverance? Don't the oppressive white bolls of cotton the dark-skinned inhabitants of District 11 pick all day in the blazing sun bring something to mind, wink wink, nudge nudge?

Wait, that wasn't in the book. But the sheer awesomeness of FLUFFY ATTACK SQUIRRELS was a fruit left to rot on the tree. And for that, I give this movie a grade of D for Dick Move.