“Catching Fire” vs. “The Hunger Games”

The sequel to “The Hunger Games,” “Catching Fire,” is out and like all sequels, it’s not quite a standalone movie. Watch “The Hunger Games” and you feel like you’re discovering the new world like Katniss. Watch “Catching Fire” and you feel like you’re simply watching a plot unfold with far less interaction from Katniss, the hero. The huge difference is that in “The Hunger Games, ” Katniss is proactive while in “Catching Fire,” she’s more of a spectator.

In “The Hunger Games,” Katniss is always taking action. She volunteers to take the place of her little sister, she shoots her arrow at the apple in the pig’s mouth to impress the judges, she saws down the hornet’s nest to scatter her attackers, she protects Rue, she blows apart the supplies of the other tributes, she gets the medicine to save Peeta and nearly loses her life in the process, and she’s the one who tells Peeta to take the poisoned berries with her so there’s no victor in the games.

Now look at how Katniss behaves in “Catching Fire.” President Snow orders her to pretend to be in love with Peeta on her victory tour, but she does take action when talking about failing to protect Rue, which inspires an old man to hold up a sign of rebellion and get executed as a result. Later, Katniss gets thrown back into the Hunger Games and during training, she makes friends with some of the other tributes. Still, she’s far less active, especially since the main plot is about the growing rebellion. As a result, everyone is working behind the scenes to protect her and fuel the rebellion, but she doesn’t know it. About the only major action she does is shoot an arrow at the force field, breaking it down, but her rescue at the end has little to do with her own actions. Because Katniss is far less involved actively in defining the story, “Catching Fire” is much weaker than “The Hunger Games.”

The movie faithfully followed the book, but the book made Katniss too passive. In “The Hunger Games,” Katniss moves the story forward. In “Catching Fire,” Katniss is more at the whims of the other secondary characters who move the plot forward. “Catching Fire” isn’t a bad movie or book, but it’s far less engaging than “The Hunger Games.”

“Catching Fire” has lots of missed opportunities. When Katniss learns about the other game winners she’ll have to fight against, there’s a brief introduction of each one, but they’re never much of a threat ever again. There’s a brother/sister combination who are deadly in battle, but they don’t pose much of a threat. There’s a girl who sharpened her teeth so she can bite people more effectively, and we never see her threaten anyone with her sharpened teeth. Between Katniss’s general passivity and the lack of a follow up with the other tributes who are deadly killers, “Catching Fire” creates much less suspense and relies too much on repetition that provides little surprise like “The Hunger Games” did.

The next two sequels of the movie will likely follow the book too closely and wind up creating a less interesting story than “The Hunger Games.” “The Hunger Games” is a classic in much the same level as “Star Wars.” “Catching Fire” is a decent, but not spectacular sequel that satisfies, but never surprises. Study both movies carefully and notice what makes “The Hunger Games” so good that “Catching Fire” seems to lack. The basic plot is the same and the characters are the same, but the end result is vastly different. It all stems on making the hero more active and paying off every bit of information that’s set up earlier in the story. “The Hunger Games” does this perfectly. “Catching Fire” does not.

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