9b07bf94-2ba3-11e3-af40-bc764e10b52fThe cinematic rendition of Suzanne Collins’ novel Catching Fire was absolutely fantastic. It was a total relief after a sad excuse for the first movie. Let me go over a few reasons why Hunger Games sunk and this one soared…like a mockingjay.

The Hunger Games was a valid attempt by director Gary Ross but it fell short of many avid fans’ expectations for one main reason: they rushed the storyline and didn’t develop any of the characters besides Katniss. There was no emotional connection. Everyone loved Peeta because they had to, not because he was presented as lovable. Haymitch made people laugh, but really didn’t have any defining characteristics. Audiences respected Gale for his biceps, but honestly didn’t know anything about him.

The reason why readers fell in love with these novels is because Collins did an amazing job developing the characters into seemingly real people we’d meet on the street. The first movie completely robbed us of that emotional connection by focusing solely on including the entire plot of the detailed book.

I reluctantly bought my midnight premiere ticket for Catching Fire out of obligation. I had to see this series out, even if it was slowly becoming a Twilight caliber trilogy; yet another movie series about love with no realistic motivation, conflict, or resolution. Because of my familiarity with these books, I knew exactly what I wanted, and everything was delivered to near perfection.

Director Francis Lawrence focused on relationships from the very beginning. For the first time audiences understood why Gale and Katniss had such a close bond and as the movie progressed, it was believable that they developed feelings for one another.

Peeta was presented as a man, unlike the wimpy boy version that was portrayed in the last movie. Peeta demanded Katniss’ attention from the first scene they appeared together and this time, his words of affection and dedication caused near tears, instead of nausea. Remember the blood-spreading scene in the cave in the first movie? Gross, unsanitary and totally unbelievable. There is a similar “moment” between Peeta and Katniss in this movie and not only was it believable through their acting and the opportunity given to them by Lawrence, it was insanely heart-wrenching.

For the first time we saw the emotional unavailability of Haymitch, the humanity in Effie, the bravery of Prim, the quiet loyalty of Cinna, and the evil of President Snow.

I was especially surprised by the actors playing the tributes. The first movie gave us all of two minutes to get to know the tributes and we felt nothing when they were killed off like animals. This time around we were shown personality, determination, and honesty. It’s as if we understood why they had to kill each other, and we empathized in response. Johanna Mason was my favorite because of her blunt outcries against the Capital, when everyone else was playing into the games.

The plot was well-developed because the director chose to move it along comfortably by omitting the details that weren’t absolutely necessary. In the first movie, Ross focused so hard on including every bit of the plot, that other aspects of the movie were severely underdeveloped. For example, in Catching Fire the details about Katniss’ fashion designs and Peeta’s paintings of the first games were omitted, but there was no sense of loss or disappointment. The plot focused 30% on the Victory Tour and 70% on the second games, which was a brilliant choice on Lawrence’s part. We got to experience enough of The Capital to satisfy our appetites for luxury, but the focus was on the games and the eventual revolution, and that was even more satisfying.

For the first time I saw the relationship between Katniss and Peeta come to life at the same time that Katniss discovered her feelings for Gale, and you rooted for each guy equally. That shows how dedicated this cast was.

Granted, this movie had a much larger budget than the first, but Lawrence’s vision was a relief to those who would call each character a friend. I’ll leave you die-hard fans with this:

The last line of the movie perfectly matched the last dialogue of the book. Brilliance.

Karen Besonen

Karen Besonen is a senior Multimedia Journalism major, originally from Apple Valley, Minnesota. She is an enthusiast of music, along with keeping a personal blog and following the action on Capital Hill. She has a passion for traveling and philanthropic work, and with her degree, she hopes to work for a Christian nonprofit that fights the trafficking and exploitation of children.

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