Full Catching Fire Review Part 2: Scene by Scene Breakdown – Up to the Victory Tour [SO MANY SPOILERS!]

Fair warning — this is highly, highly full of spoilers — in fact, the whole post is a giant spoiler. Please don’t read further if you haven’t seen the movie. I’ve seen it four times in theatres so this post is likely to be high on details.

Katniss and Post-Traumatic Stress

It’s not so often that the opening scene in a movie rips your heart out so totally and fully, but that’s what Catching Fire managed to do [side note: your heart never fully recovers through the 2:26 hour movie]. The movie opens with Katniss looking off into the distance, obviously still dealing with the trauma she faced in the 74th Games. The depth of emotion shown by Jennifer Lawrence in this one shot alone should have been a sign to us all of the greatness of her overall performance. It is in this same opening scene, when she and Gale go off to hunt together, that the realities of the post-traumatic stress that Katniss is dealing with is really portrayed (heavily, and well I might add) to the audience when Katniss hallucinates/flashes back to her killing of Marvel in the Games just as she is about to shoot a turkey.

I loved it for several reasons. First, I loved the juxtaposition to the line said in the first movie by Gale about how killing a person is really no different than killing an animal — obviously, there’s a huge difference and Katniss’ struggles point to that. However, the mechanics are the same, and the Hunger Games in general forces these competitors to blur the lines even more.

Second, I absolutely loved how Jennifer portrayed Katniss in this scene. I believe she absolutely nailed it — the fear, the sudden onslaught of emotion, the confusion, how shook up she was at the end. Literally, this probably took less than a minute in the film, but the message and the emotions were clear as day. The Games have a huge impact — we, as an audience, cannot forget about the horrors Katniss and Peeta witnessed and partook in. We also cannot forget about the humanity at the core of these movies — these characters are told to be warriors, and while they may come out victorious, they are humans underneath it all.

Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch Before the Games 

When Katniss goes to wake Haymitch up before the cameras get there, it was a scene that provided three pivotal points for me. First, it was a great way to break up the drama and the tension by adding a bit of comedy to the setting. Second, the dynamic between the three victors of District 12 were evident from this very early scene. Being at the centre really of the series as a trio, I loved how they set it up early on in the second movie. Finally, this was the point where I was pleasantly surprised at how much they were keeping from the book into the movie in terms of actual scenes and dialogue. I couldn’t help thinking that this was one of those scenes Gary Ross would have found “unnecessary” in the first film and would never have been filmed. Throughout Catching Fire, they’d keep more of the book in (that’s for another post) but this was the first instance where I was cheered up by this prospect.

Snow and Katniss Meeting

Is there anything better as a Hunger Games fan than seeing Donald Sutherland and Jennifer Lawrence directly play off each other? Apart from the obvious implications for the storyline of this visit, I felt that both actors did very well in highlighting the tension, fear, plotting, and on Snow’s part some grudging respect for Katniss. One of the things I love about the series in general is this interplay between these two characters of such different backgrounds and of such different levels of power – and yet they are so evenly matched. One can tell that Snow/Sutherland feels the same way in this scene. Snow’s threat of the casualties of war was eerily prescient of what is to come. Meanwhile, Katniss starts to show early on why, even if she will reluctantly do it, her courage and compassion for people, will push her to fight for them in whatever way she can. Frankly, as a character study of Katniss, it is this that sets her apart from someone like Gale or even Peeta, but that’s for another post.

Katniss and Peeta for the Cameras

In this scene, Katniss and Peeta need to act out some weird scene for the cameras as Ceasar Flickerman checks in on them on the eve of the Victory Tour. Despite the lack of Peeta’s missing leg (does that even make sense?), Francis Lawrence stays true, once again, to the book and gets them to tumble to the ground together. While there, Katniss plants a fake kiss on Peeta and they both play the coy, embarrassed lovers really well here. This scene is great because Stanley Tucci makes his first appearance – his performance in this series as a whole, and how it elevates the role even from the book, is severely underrated and under-appreciated. As well, I really liked this scene because somehow, someway, Jennifer Lawrence is able to play up the giggly, lovesick school girl in a doubly convincing way — you can see how she convinces everyone in the Capitol about their love,but you can also see from our perspective how much of an act it really is. Seriously, if that description even makes sense — it is an extraordinary piece of mind-f**k greatness.

The Victory Tour

Absolutely and undoubtedly my favourite set of scenes in the entire series thus far. Brilliantly shot, intensely acted and visually awe-inspiring. The score also added to the emotions of the victory tour. I loved every single bit about it. In District 11, we start to feel this impending sense of doom that this victory tour will not really be that celebratory after all. Katniss’ speech about Rue floored me with its true emotion. Going forward, I loved the little pieces they added to the different districts: the quiet rebellion in one, the anger from the districts when Katniss and Peeta resolutely stick to the script, the eery way Katniss says “Panem today, Panem tomorrow, Panem forever”, and finally the also eery juxtaposition of celebrity worship with the current status of Jennifer Lawrence when the little girl adoringly tells Katniss that when she grows up she want to volunteer just like her. You can tell from these scenes just how far Katniss’ impact can be felt.

Victory Tour at the Capitol

As the Victory Tour hits the Capitol, Katniss and Peeta are welcomed at the Presidential Palace for a party in their honour. The scenery, costumes and overall cinematography of this scene really popped. This scene was also incredible because it’s Effie/Elizabeth Banks at her finest. Apparently she ad-libbed some of her memorable lines from that scene as a homage to the fans, further proof that she’s one of the best things about the franchise – a respected actress who gets it. I also love that they kept the part where they show that Capitol citizens willingly make themselves sick just so they can stuff more in. I felt like this was an incredibly powerful part of the book that showed the casual depravity of life in the Capitol and I was happy that they included it.

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