November 22, 2013


 “Hunger Games: Catching Fire”—the film series adapted from the young adult books--has changed directors! (New director: Francis Lawrence, “I Am Legend.”) The difference? A little more slick and polished rather than gritty, handheld. A little more lush, shiny “Harry Potter” and less “Where the Wild Things Are.”

“Hunger Games” is set in a world where young people are like gladiators, hunting each other down for TV entertainment and “distraction”* from their government-run lives of deprivation. (You really need to see the first movie first, 'cause this movie don't explain nothing to ya.)

Jennifer Lawrence (as Katniss, the main character) carries the story through like a pro, showing us why her Hollywood star just keeps on rising. This is a quality, pull-out-all-the-stops, blockbuster production. It’s mostly non-graphically violent, loud, but also very beautiful. “Catching Fire” is well stocked with seasoned and believable actors: Donald Sutherland, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks and always-good-for-laughs Woody Harrelson. 

Katniss continues to be her noble self, doing her best to protect others and save lives (starting with her family and friends) in a brutal and impossible Catch-22 situation. But the Districts are starting to rise up—with Katniss as their icon, beacon and sign of hope—something she doesn’t want but can’t avoid. She feels partially responsible for every further death that occurs, but the revolution is bigger than Katniss.

Katniss’ strong romantic feelings for both Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) continue. Who will it be?

The movie doesn’t have a strong beginning at all (visually, action-wise or dialogue-wise), which is a bit of letdown.  It’s even stiff and dry, until the conversation between Katniss and President Snow raises the stakes. But once it quickly gets into the groove, it takes off with a heart-pounding “turn” every  few minutes, all the way to the last frame, which, of course, is not the end of the story.

“Catching Fire” is long: 146 minutes, but extremely watchable and never tiresome. There seems to be an underlying theme of goodness and friendship: “Why can’t we all just get along?” But since we can’t, we must protect our own and forge allegiances, and then be fiercely loyal. It’s never just about saving one’s self, but often self-sacrificing to save others.

Why "Hunger Games" Is a Problem

The one problem with the series—and it’s a big one—is the underlying dystopian setting of young people killing young people (“Catching Fire” includes older tributes, also). There’s even a tribute who filed her teeth so she can kill by biting people’s throats. What are we telling/showing youth and why? That life is war? That this is a future we’re heading to? That we must be vigilant about authority, oppressors, totalitarianism? How to keep one’s humanity in the direst and trickiest of situations? Or is it just a juicy, dark story?

As with most Hollywood films, there is no God (or religion) in “Catching Fire.” Only people acting like God (the State). Of course, human beings are the image of God, so from that standpoint, every movie is filled with God.

Good is good and evil is evil in “Catching Fire.” The good guys are really good and the bad guys are really bad. There is a moral clarity here. But there is not much backstory for any of the characters to tell us why they are the way they are. People seem born good or bad and locked into that categorization. There have been no real transformations or conversions throughout these first two films.

Human dignity (not just human freedom) is what Katniss and her friends seem to be fighting for, so there is a comprehensiveness and a human richness to the “good guys” and their ideals that is lacking on the side of the grotesque, plastic, vain, shallow, ruthless rulers and denizens of the “Capitol.”

As I complained about the first installation of “Hunger Games,” Katniss is almost too perfect. Her flaws are negligible, and she always does the highest moral, heroic thing with great courage. (My friends who have read the books assure me that the books reveal more of her inner dilemmas and shortcomings.) Good storytelling must zero in on the main character’s weaknesses as well as strengths to be realistic.

Despite its shortcomings, “Hunger Games” is a very entertaining, life-is-worth-living-affirming tale.

Age appropriateness? Every child is different, but any 10-year-old used to loud noises and a fair amount of violence and “peril” in their media should be fine.
*So, I thought to myself, I thought: "Here we are in a temple of entertainment (and trust me, the Cineplex at Silvercity, Yorkdale Mall, Toronto, is a TEMPLE) being entertained by a story about people who are being manipulated by, um, entertainment."  


--Wanna see this movie review in chill Web 3.0 rather than lame 1.0 graphics?

--We missed you, Jena! You, too, Amanda Plummer (Christopher Plummer's daughter)!

--The wedding dress.

--Oh joy. "Hunger Games Theme Parks"

--Suzanne Collins (author of "The Hunger Games") dishes on her favorite young adult lit growing up (OMGosh, more than half were MY favs!)

--There just never was a more "us and them" movie. The game-maker, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) even uses this very language.

--Lots of obvious overtones of decadent, ancient Rome this time, right down to the chariots. Can you say "bread and circus"?

--Culture of surveillance.

--I love how Katniss, even when totally gussied up, still looks, talks and acts like a tough backwoods gal.

--Most adorbs little baby and toddler with Mom and Dad in front of me in cinema. Toddler very well behaved, baby having a ball screaming and interacting with the ginormo screen. Was I bothered? Nope. The KIDS is what it's all about. We have forgotten this. It's all about THEM.

--Effie (Elizabeth Banks) has a soul. She is a fragile, pathetic, pitiful creature--that's why Katniss and Co. don't hate her. I wouldn't be surprised if she joins the other side....

--Excellent balance of SILENCE in story telling and dialogue.

--Dystopian young adult literature is "so over"? Really? Maybe 'cuz NOW 55% of readers are over 18. (No longer cool when Mom is reading it. Ha ha.) Dystopian literature is so over. What will be the next big genre in young adult fiction?

--Hunger Games author, Suzanne Collins, gives a rare interview to TIME magazine, November 2013. Her father was a veteran and believed children should be taught about the realities of war. Can't read whole interview? You should probably subscribe to TIME! :),9171,2157467,00.html


  1. the full movie of catching fire is epic! no one can't predict the ending lol. After i watched the full movie i was able to watch it again and again online. Can't wait for mockingjay indeed


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  3. Dear Sr. Helena,

    Just heard your radio interview with Son Rise Morning Show's Anna Mitchell this morning.
    Found your blog, and read it at a clip.

    Thought I'd drop you a line to let you know in looking for Fulton Sheen's book about Virtue and the 7 Last Words of Christ, I found that the title is Victory Over Vice.

    All my children are into current media in many of its forms. I'll check back periodically to see what you've got to say on various movies, songs, books, etc.

    Thank you for saying yes to your vocation.

    In Christ,
    Mary Helen Colleli
    Columbus, Ohio

  4. Great series. I never though I would even be interested in a book like this. It was recommended by a friend on facebook. Bought the first one and immediately ordered them all....

  5. By far the film's greatest asset is Jennifer Lawrence, who again brings absolute emotional conviction to her haunted and conflicted heroine.

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