Rarely do I go out to the movies anymore, and I wasn’t particularly interested the sequel of the Hunger Games. Since I was given a free ticket (for Catching Fire only), I decided to indulge in the hype.
For sure, “Catching Fire” has been hyped, receiving mostly positive reviews. Some critics believe Jennifer Lawrence performance was nothing short of breathtaking, and despite being surrounded by stars, she carried the film. Someone even had the gall to make the outlandish comparison that “Catching Fire” is this generation’s “The Empire Strikes Back.”
No and No. Jennifer Lawrence has a solid performance, but she is neither a throwback like Katharine Hepburn, nor the next Meryl Streep, although one cannot deny she is a rising star. Once this movie outlives the hype, it will become forgettable, while the “Empire Strikes Back” has been consistently ranked in the top 25 movies of all time for the past three decades.
One major problem is the disjointed storyline. Despite being suspenseful, I struggled to make sense of the confusing plot. Half the movie was spent highlighting the victory tour, then in a dramatic bait-and-switch, the victors are back in the hunger games arena, fighting for their lives, again. Given the dystopia, I understand the underlying themes of harsh injustice, rebellion, and government control. But why this competition, the analogy doesn’t seem to fit? Heck, why has it taken them 75 years to rebel? And importantly, what moral question is this movie addressing? Maybe, unlike my peers, the question-at-large needs to be spoon-fed to me because moral ambivalence is soupy in this film. In contrast, moral clarity is a sure winner, and I left “Catching Fire” feeling more confused than necessary.