To continue my three-part series review on The Hunger Games franchise, I will be discussing the second and my personal favorite of the four movies out-so far!-and that is Catching Fire. 

Catching Fire was released in theaters in late 2013, and it noticeably got a much bigger budget and a different director but these changes seemed to work in the movie’s favor given I believe the production quality is better than the first movie. Don’t get me wrong, I think the first movie still looks great, but I’m sure fans like me were also surprised to see the difference it made when comparing the two. 

Now, I said this movie was my favorite of the movies currently out, and there’s many reasons why.

The Victors Tour

One point of interest for me that I briefly covered in my first article is the dynamic between Katniss and Peeta over time. After the events of the 74th games, they have to attend what’s called the Victors Tour. They must travel to every district, including the Capitol, and give speeches and celebrate their win in the games. Katniss is not pleased with this but quickly finds out she has no choice but to not only participate but also convince the country of her unwavering love for Peeta when President Snow pays her a visit at her new home. He threatens her and her family’s life if she doesn’t play the act well. Understandably, she’s under a lot of stress, so her and Peeta’s relationship behind closed doors doesn’t start off well. 

Eventually, however, they share this nice moment in a scene I love, which is Peeta coming over to Katniss on the train after a spat with Haymitch and Effie. They promise to start over and try to actually be friends amidst the chaos of pretending to be star-crossed lovers. They learn of each other’s favorite colors, and while it seems insignificant, it’s their first moment of true friendship. 

Another topic I think this movie covers well is the depiction of mental health, especially PTSD. Katniss is frequently reminded of her time in the arena, like when she goes to shoot a deer with Gale, but her mind convinces her she’s shooting a tribute she killed in the games, and has a panic attack, scaring the deer away. 

She also has frequent night terrors during their Victors Tour, where Peeta will come to check on her, and this further deepens their relationship when Katniss opens up to him and asks him to stay the rest of the night, which he obligates. 

It even does a good job in showing it in Haymitch. He survived his own games and every year is forced to mentor kids he knows are just being sent off to die. To cope, his choice of vice is alcohol, and is frequently seen drunk on screen. Despite this, he does try to help and aid the two in their Victors Tour. 

Later on, his PTSD manifests in a different way where President Snow changes the rules of the 75th Games, the Quarter Quell, and throws a drink at the screen in a sudden burst of rage. It’s a very quick moment, but it shows well how deep-rooted this trauma is and is angry and perhaps fearful at the aspect of potentially having to return.

A lot of times, it can be hard to depict mental health in a realistic way, but I think the movie, while brief and subtle, does a good job showing the nuances and depth of this illness.

The 75th Hunger Games

Even after the Victors Tour, though, it did little to ease the murmurings of uprising in the districts, and Snow even increased Peacekeeper presence in many of the districts and tightening his grip even more on the country. To deliver what he thought would be the final blow to any uprising talk and Katniss, he alters the rules of the Quarter Quell so that all tributes are from the existing victors, thus forcing Katniss back in the arena in an attempt to finally kill her and any rebellion forming. 

Understandably, Katniss takes this news hard, and she flees her home to take some time to herself. Before they return, she makes a deal with Haymitch to take Peeta’s place in the games because she believes he should live. However, this plan falls apart when Peeta volunteers to take Haymitch’s place, and the star-crossed lovers are back in the games together. 

With the harrowing return to the games, the rest of the movie revolves around the two-week period before entering the arena, and it makes for great moments like when all the tributes stand together as a small act of defiance the night before they’re sent to the arena. It also shows Katniss’s slight ineptitude towards making friends, and she makes alliances with people whom Haymitch and others deem undesirable. They do end up being helpful in the games, however. 

It would be unfortunate to talk about this movie without the introduction of Finnick Odair, the Capitol’s darling tribute and quite the charmer. He, however, has a sinister backstory of what was done to him that isn’t explored until the final two movies. Katniss is put off by him initially until they form an alliance in the games, one that Katniss hesitantly goes with. 

The games are brutal, with a clock system that only one tribute, Wiress, figures out, but couldn’t really communicate until Katniss figures out what she’s saying through her repeated phrase of “Tick tock”. Each hour out of 12 has a different type of horror they must avoid, but at least they’re predictable once they figured it out. 

One more great character moment I always think about is how Peeta accidentally walks into the force field, and it stops his heart. Katniss is completely devastated and doesn’t know what to do until Finnick jumps in to resuscitate him. It’s Katniss’s first public burst of genuine love and care for Peeta that wasn’t just a facade for the cameras. She was terrified that she not only failed at her goal to keep him alive but that someone she loves has just died. Thankfully, Finnick brings him back, and Katniss kisses and hugs him out of pure relief.  

Finally, at the end of the movie, Katniss shoots the electrified arrow at the force field and blows it open. It’s the true turning point of the series and how things go from uneasy to full-on rebellion against the Capitol and President Snow. 

The movie ends with a harrowing cliffhanger where Katniss learns they couldn’t get Peeta in time, and he was taken by the Capitol. She looks at the camera, confused by the entire plan that was occurring underneath both her and Peeta’s noses and the crushing fact that she didn’t fulfill her promise to keep Peeta alive and the status of his survival was unknown at the time. 

Catching Fire is a great jumping point from a society being squeezed to its absolute limits to one girl making a choice to defy the Capitol via shattering the force field and starting a rebellion that covers the two Mockingjay movies. I didn’t talk about the book much here, but it is a faithful adaptation from the book, despite all the ground they had to cover, and they did an exceptional job with bringing the material to life. Even in this review, I didn’t get to cover everything about the movie, just some of my favorite scenes and themes. 

Next time, I’ll be covering Mockingjay Part 1 and 2 combined, so stay tuned!