Sorry for the sensationalist title, I should have said, “I think Katniss Everdeen is okay.”
If you haven’t seen Catching Fire, the second installment of the Hunger Games franchise, here is everything you need to know about the movie: It’s a dystopian world of twelve districts that serve the Capitol, the center of power in the country of Panem. Because of a failed uprising, the twelve districts offer up a boy and a girl, called tributes, to fight to the death in an annual pageantry called the Hunger Games. The two remaining tributes, Katniss and Peeta, defy the Capitol by refusing to kill each other. They inspire the twelve districts to rebel against the Capitol, and so the rebellion is Catching Fire. The movie, directed by Francis Lawrence, was so good that it broke records by earning 161.1 million dollars opening weekend. Surprisingly, the movie was infinitely better than the book.
The main reason the movie was better than the book is because of Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Katniss. Her portrayal of Katniss makes it seem as if Katniss isn’t the worst ever. Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss is caring but not reckless, endearing but not idiotic, independent but not arrogant. The movie version of Katniss is intent on surviving, but she is not so selfish that she disregards Gale and Peeta’s feelings for her. Whereas in the book, Katniss’ need to be self-sufficient is exhausting. Jennifer Lawrence acts so well that every emotion Katniss feels runs through her facial expressions without pages upon pages of whining and debating about whether she should kiss Peeta for the cameras.
Jennifer Lawrence is so likable that she makes Katniss likable too. In interviews, JLaw proves just how funny and witty she is. She openly speaks out about loving your body, being kind to other people, and her hatred for dieting. Even though she’s won an Oscar and an Academy Award at only 23, she’s so down-to-earth and weird that everyone feels like they could be her best friend.
This is not to say that the Hunger Games franchise or its themes are awful, but a critique of its medium. Everything is told from Katniss’ point of view, but Suzanne Collins needed to tell a story that was bigger than Katniss’ understanding. There is so much she doesn’t know about the politics of Panem and the people whose roles are integral to its structure. The movies, especially Catching Fire, solves these problems effortlessly all without Katniss’ tiring inner monologue. Film is simply a better medium for the story that Suzanne Collins wanted to tell.
Without being too pedantic, it’s important to remember that we should focus less on JLaw’s superb acting or whether the movie was better or worse than the book, but instead on the greater problems within the Hunger Games world. The Capitol, where the richest and most extravagant lifestyles are not only accepted but expected, is a parallel of our own world. This message is even stronger through visual representation, especially in the way the districts are emaciated and impoverished and literally dying compared to the ostentatious makeup of Caesar Flickerman. Suzanne Collins wants us to be aware of our privilege compared to the underpaid and the underrepresented. The dystopia, the politics, and the use of media and entertainment as distractions for these larger issues — all of these problems are addressed in the books and movies really well.
With all of that said, Catching Fire was a good movie, an even greater adaptation of an important franchise, and it definitely lived up to its hype.