2013-11-23

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Hope in Hopelessness

by Yo Snyder

The Hunger Games:
Catching Fire
is one of the best book-to-screen translations I’ve seen in
quite some time. Every decision, from what to leave out what to change and what
to include is a smart one that helps serve the story well for a screen version
of a pretty good book. More importantly, just about everything that is put up
on screen that ends up on the screen plays out pretty much the way I envisioned
it while reading the book, and how often can one say that happens when a
popular book becomes a movie?

A big part of that is casting. Everyone really comes into
their own this time around and really captures the essence of the character
from the book. Everyone knows that Lawrence is talented, but when all of the
actors around her really become the characters, not just here, it’s so easy to
get immersed in the world of the book. Sutherland, Harrelson, Hoffman all bring
their characters to life in such a way that it just feels like the characters
from the book have jumped right onto the screen. If there’s one weak link, as
it was last time, I’d have to say it’s Hutcherson and his portrayal of Peeta.
Again, I think part of that is that he really doesn’t have much to do. Much more
will be demanded of him in the next couple movies, so it will be interesting to
see if he will be able to represent the radical transformation his character
goes through well. Still, on the whole this cast does a superb job, and
combined with tight scripting and some smart directing, the book really comes
to life in this screen version, in a way that I’ve only ever seen with Jurassic Park or The Lord of the Rings.

If there’s one thing that’s lost in translation, it’s some
of the depth of Katniss’ character. She is inspiring hope in a world filled
with hopelessness, but she herself has no hope for herself in the books. She
can’t see the hope that others see in her, doesn’t want any part of being any
sort of hope than others, and more than anything just wants to get by as best
she can. Much of that is lost in the
film, but it’s no poorer for it as the film still tells a compelling story.
Indeed it may be better for it because if there’s one thing I really did not
like about the books was how hopeless they were. The world of the Hunger Games
is truly bleak, and despite all that happens Katniss, hope is just something
she never really discovers. The truth is we do live in a fairly bleak world of
our own, and there are plenty of hopeless people in it. We can look find hope
in others, but that only leads to disappointment. Voting for hope lead to
disappointment, and Katniss herself find it disappointing that people look to
her for hope because she feels that she doesn’t have any for herself, let alone
others. Fortunately, we are given another option. There is hope for us in our
most hopeless, and it comes not from just some “inspiring” person, but from
Someone who was the embodiment of hope itself. It was hope displayed on a cruel
cross. It was hope revealed in an empty tomb. It’s hope freely given through
grace, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life. It is the hope that is found in
Jesus Christ. It’s the hope that Katniss needs so desperately, but cannot find.
Fortunately, our story can be brighter than hers because God has not hidden
hope, he revealed it for one and all in Jesus.

The Hunger Games
was sort of a surprise hit a couple years ago when it debuted. The sequel is
far more confident as it pushes forward. True, much of the layout of the story
may seem fairly similar to the first movie, but then that was the way the book
unfolded as well. The difference is this time the stakes are much higher, and
far more personal. The games are over and war is coming. While there are some
key points from the book that seem rather ambiguous in the movie (unless you’ve
read the book, of course), on the whole the sequel tells a much tighter story
where everyone feels much more confident and comfortable in what they’re doing.
I’m still a bit leery of the whole “break the final book up into multiple parts
to stretch out making profits from the films for longer”, I wonder if in the
case of this series that might actually work out well. Whatever the case, this
was my wife’s favorite book, and it was telling that as we left the theater she
stated that the movie lived up to her very high expectations and was easily a
favorite over the first movie. You can’t have a better review than that.

Score: 6 of 7 – Catching
Fire
is rated PG-13. It has some pretty heavy themes, some fairly dark
moments, and plenty of violence. Most of the grisly parts take place off
screen, but there are a few dire, bloody moments that are on display. Take the
PG-13 rating seriously.