BY Joanna Mendoza and Jen T. Tuazon
If you’re one of the people who helped The Hunger Games: Catching Fire earn a whopping $307,725,000 worldwide first-weekend gross, then you’re probably ready to discuss your feelings about the movie. Did you love it, too? What did you like best about it? Were there scenes (or non-scenes) that you didn’t quite appreciate?
Still on a Catching Fire high, we’d like to share our picks for the 12 best Catching Fire moments–and a few ones we think could have been better. If you haven’t read Suzanne Collins‘s book, SPOILER ALERT!
12. President Snow’s granddaughter tells grandpa she wants to find her own Peeta someday. The book being in Katniss’s point of view, what Snow (Donald Sutherland) does in his own time is not talked about in it, so this only-in-the-movie scene is a very nice touch. It moves things along. It shows us how influential Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has become not only to the rebels, but to the innocent people of the Capitol. It shows us another reason that Snow hates Katniss with such passion. It brings us a little closer to understanding the man behind all that evil. Plus, the horror that must’ve been going through Snow’s head here! His own Capitol-born granddaughter (Erika Bierman), who isn’t even in her teens yet, idolizes the biggest threat to his leadership and is already talking about having a boyfriend. You can almost feel sorry for him. Okay, not really.
11. The Gamemakers’ control room is back in action. Like the movie scenes showing Katniss-free interactions (see items 12 and 3), the gamemakers’ control room is yet another benefit of the film not being in Katniss’s point of view. We couldn’t imagine the control room just from reading the book, so this was easily one of our favorite things from last year’s Hunger Games movie, and it hasn’t gotten old.
10. The training room gets an upgrade. Speaking of amazing sets, the sequel’s training room has gone high-tech. Tributes don’t just throw weapons in the air now; they have computerized moving targets. Think you can not be awed by Katniss after her turn at the bow and arrow section? We’re not betting on it.
9. Finnick flirts with Katniss. This scene is a lot sexier and more fun in the book. But as soon as we see Sam Claflin and Lawrence in their first scene together, we can’t help wishing there can be more between Finnick and Katniss–even though we’re die-hard Team Peeta fans!
8. The allies, the force field, the clock, the hourly horrors make the Quarter Quell more exciting. There’s less killing of fellow tributes this time, but because of the arena’s more sinister feel, there’s greater suspense. And with Katniss having allies from the very beginning–and Lawrence’s chemistry with the newbies and, of course, Josh Hutcherson (Peeta), this sequel is a lot less boring compared to its predecessor.
7. Haymitch winks at Peeta after Peeta drops the pregnancy bomb. It feels good to see Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) give Peeta props as a fighter, especially because in the book, Haymitch, where the Games are concerned, too obviously prefers to coach and encourage Katniss.
6. Peeta swims on his own. Hooray for an empowered Peeta! In the book, Peeta gets stuck on his metal plate at the beginning of the games, because, like many of the other tributes, he can’t swim. “I hate bringing things up that could be conceived as coming from a place of vanity when it wasn’t that at all,” Hutcherson told Entertainment Weekly about his new and improved Peeta. “I don’t give two s—s if I’m a damsel in distress or not, I just want what’s best for the character and the story. And there were scenes where Peeta seemed so helpless. He needs to be able to contribute in some way.” (Read the rest of the fun interview here. It’s a group interview with Hutcherson, Jennifer Lawrence, Claflin, director Francis Lawrence, and producer Nina Jacobson!)
5. An emotional Effie loses her composure at the reaping. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), cartoonish in her Capitol-ness, gets a little emotional while reading out the names of Twelve’s tributes for the third Quarter Quell. As self-involved as Capitol people are, Effie shows in this scene how much she’s grown to love Katniss and Peeta. The District 12 escort, who’s all about always being well-mannered and looking presentable, smudges her mascara on live TV and she doesn’t even bother to wipe it off. This movie scene is definitely better than its counterpart in the book.
4. The citizens of District 11 pay for their small act of rebellion. This early scene is one of the best in the book. And it is just as heartbreaking in the movie. The victors’ speeches. The shots of Rue’s and Thresh’s families. That old man humming and then doing the three-finger salute. Jennifer Lawrence’s cry of agony when the old man is killed. The entire District 11 scene is brief, but it is enough to crush anyone’s heart.
3. President Snow and Plutarch Heavensbee plot Katniss’s demise. Like in the previous film’s Seneca Crane and President Snow interactions, scenes between the Panem president and new head gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) are unique to the movie version. Thank God for the movie team’s creative license, because Heavensbee, whom Katniss never gives much thought in the book, is one of the sequel’s most interesting characters. And seeing Hollywood heavyweights Sutherland and Seymour Hoffman have intelligent exchanges about killing a teenage girl is so quietly terrifying it’s genius.
2. Johanna Mason strips in the elevator, in full view of Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch. Yet another scene that’s better in the movie. How Peeta and Haymitch takes the impromptu striptease is priceless. In the book, Haymitch isn’t in the elevator, and it doesn’t even say how Peeta reacts while Johanna (Jena Malone) is taking off her clothes. (Though Katniss narrates that Peeta laughs at her once they are the only two left in the elevator.) Here are GIFs of the scene in case you want to see it for the first time, or the second and the third and…
1. Jennifer Lawrence. It doesn’t matter what scene she’s in. Girl (on fire) can do it all.
And here are some scenes that perhaps could’ve been done a little differently:
President Snow threatens Katniss in her own home. We envisioned Katniss to be a little more fearful in this scene, and Snow to be more terrifying, slick as a snake, perhaps a lot closer to Voldemort. Instead, they seem almost like equals. True, Katniss tries to play it cool in the book, but there are also times when she falters, such as when she nearly pleads with Snow not to kill Gale. This scene is really chilling in the book. Onscreen though, it’s borderline harmless.
Mags slows everybody down. Perhaps most of the people in the theater the night we watched have yet to read the book. Or maybe they’re just plain mean to old people. Most of them laughed at the sight of Finnick carrying 80-year-old Mags (Lynn Cohen) on his back, and during the should-have-been gut-wrenching scene where Mags walks straight into the poisonous fog. Perhaps if the movie had given a little more weight to Mags’s sacrifice for Finnick? Maybe it would even have had some effect had they mentioned that Mags was Finnick’s mentor. (Or maybe they did say it but we were too distracted by the audience’s reaction to her…)
Enobaria bares her full set of fangs. This should’ve been scary, but it came off as silly. Perhaps if, instead of doing that vampire thing, Enobaria (Meta Golding) had just acted naturally like the other Careers and let her skills do the intimidating? This unintentionally funny scene (or maybe it was intentional?) brings to mind last year’s camouflage scene with Peeta. Both scenes work well in the book, but onscreen they do nothing but make us laugh and feel a bit uncomfortable.
Finally, here are a couple of scenes we wish had been in the movie:
A look back on Haymitch’s own Quarter Quell win. This doesn’t really add anything, so we understand why it isn’t included. But the more Haymitch Abernathy/Woody Harrelson goodness we can get, the happier we are.
Katniss and Finnick’s Peeta prank. Useless but too darn cute. It’s on pages 293 to 295 of Catching Fire. Dust off your copy and get reading!
In case you haven’t seen this yet, here is “Reaping Ball,” a Catching Fire parody of “Wrecking Ball.” That it’s told from the point of view of Gale, played by Liam Hemsworth, possibly the man Miley Cyrus is talking about in her song, adds to the fun!
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, produced by Lionsgate and locally distributed by Pioneer Films, is currently showing in Philippine cinemas.