Why Catching Fire is still the best Hunger Games movie ever

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The Hunger Games authorization is aback in cinemas with the absolution of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. Set 60 years afore Katniss Everdeen stepped into the arena, the prequel follows a adolescent Coriolanus Snow as he becomes the appearance admirers admired to abhorrence in the aboriginal saga. Although solid, if overstuffed and flawed, The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is boilerplate abreast the akin of the aboriginal tetralogy starring Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence as the alienated archer. Because, while it’s set in the aforementioned apple and appearance best of the aforementioned themes, Ballad misses all the dash and impactful storytelling that fabricated The Hunger Games such a phenomenon.

As Catching Fire turns 10, and with The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes in theaters, it’s the absolute time to attending aback at the 2013 film’s legacy. Time has been annihilation but affectionate to Catching Fire, cementing it not alone as the acknowledged champ of the YA action but as a near-perfect blur for its time and place.

The YA craze

Kristen Stewart as Bella Sawn arm angry in Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2.Image via Summit Entertainment

To accept Catching Fire‘s cutting success and legacy, one charge aboriginal accept the ambience in which it premiered. The YA brand was able but not a juggernaut; Harry Potter was added fantasy than YA, aforementioned as Percy Jackson, Narnia, and all the added copycats block afterwards The Boy Who Lived’s crown. The capital adumbrative of the YA genre, and the authorization that absolutely took it to the mainstream, was Twilight.

Sufficient time has anesthetized for us to accept the Twilight movies are not aloof bad; they’re god awful. They’re abominably made, awfully paced, and absolute stupid. Robert Pattinson and Academy Award appointee Kristen Stewart are acceptable at arena the roles they’re saddled with, but aggregate abroad about the movies, including their co-stars, is terrible. The Twilight movies are atrocious, and not alike homesickness can accomplish you accept otherwise; if anything, rewatching them now aloof makes you apprehend how antic and ambiguous awkward they are. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still a fun time, but hardly anyone watches them and feels annihilation added than cringe.

Enter The Hunger Games, a blur that wore its political and amusing undertones on its sleeve and featured a once-in-a-generation aptitude as the protagonist. The Hunger Games came out months after The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, absolutely possibly the affliction access in the vampire saga. Because it was authentic and complete YA, The Hunger Games was apparent as the analytic beneficiary to the soon-to-be-defunct Twilight, and to alarm it an advancement would be generous. The Hunger Games is a acceptable cine by itself, but abutting to Twilight, it’s ambiguous masterful.

A man holds a woman's duke in The Hunger Games Catching Fire.Lionsgate

Audiences responded enthusiastically. There was an alacrity from critics and admirers to accede The Hunger Games, the aboriginal absolutely abundant YA movie. Katniss Everdeen single-handedly legitimized the genre, proving that teen-centric storylines could action the aforementioned “elevated” ball that became so accepted in the 2010s, and things were aloof accepting started. One year later, Catching Fire capitalized on its predecessor’s goodwill, instantly acceptable the acme of the YA genre. If The Hunger Games towered over its peers, Catching Fire absolute askew them.

The YA brand is not difficult to analyze. From its adulation for the dystopian ambience to its affection for casting absolutely absorbing adolescent talent, YA movies are all cut from the aforementioned bolt – The Hunger Games cloth, and specifically, Catching Fire. The additional access in Katniss’ adventure defied all expectations and boundaries, bearing a thought-provoking, exhilarating, abundantly acute anecdotal able of continuing amid the best films of 2014, and I beggarly that unironically. Look at the 2014 nominees for Best Picture, and acquaint me Catching Fire is not bigger than at atomic bisected of them. The actuality that a teen-centric, dystopian action cine could abet such a acknowledgment from critics and audiences was and charcoal annihilation abbreviate of impressive, abnormally today, back blockbusters are disturbing to alike be taken actively as accurate endeavors, let abandoned works of 18-carat art.

The casting on fire

 Catching Fire.Lionsgate

A lot has been said about Catching Fire‘s strengths: its tight, fast-paced plot, added stakes, and the arch additions of some of the best characters in The Hunger Games. However, I anticipate Catching Fire‘s greatest backbone relies on its cast. The adventure had already accurate its adeptness to cull some of the best aggressive casting choices in avant-garde blockbusters, from Elizabeth Banks to the scene-stealing Stanley Tucci to, of course, Jennifer Lawrence herself.

However, Catching Fire took things to a new akin of air-conditioned with its new cast. You accept the late, abundant Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeffrey Wright assuming it up, additional a altogether casting Sam Claflin as the devilish Finnick. But again you get to the ever-underrated Jena Malone; again you about-face about and see Lynn Cohen. And who is that arena Wiress? Emmy-winner Amanda Plummer?! While added franchises were casting big names larboard and right, Catching Fire was giving accustomed yet underrated actors a adventitious to shine, and we were all the bigger for it.

More importantly, Catching Fire‘s greatest celebration is cementing Katniss as a genuine, three-dimensional, and alarming appearance rather than aloof a YA figurehead. The Hunger Games might’ve alien the girl, but Catching Fire absolutely actually lit her up. To do so, the blur does two acute things. First, it expands on the saga’s two best circuitous and alluring relationships; adverse to what you ability think, I’m not talking about Katniss and Peeta, abundant beneath Katniss and Gale. Rather, I beggarly Katniss and Haymitch and, of course, Katniss and Snow.

Katniss Everdeen is the brilliant of the Hunger Games franchise, and Lawrence valiantly steers the ship. However, both Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch and Donald Sutherland’s President Snow are acute genitalia of the saga. Catching Fire explores both relationships, consistent in auspicious and anxious takes on the acceptable mentor-mentee and hero-villain dynamics. The aboriginal blur introduces Haymitch as a mentor, but Catching Fire expands his role to that of a acquaintance and associate to Katniss; he ability be added experienced, but he’s not added mature. There’s a different accent to their interactions; conceivably they don’t like anniversary added entirely, but they are adequate about one another, accouterment article they accept both bare for years: tranquility. It’s a abundantly impactful and decidedly breakable accord that would become the affection of the series.

On the added hand, Katniss and Snow are bound in a analytical dance. Far too focused on anniversary added to stop yet too annoyed to accumulate going, both characters face anniversary added with account if not necessarily admiration. Because Katniss — and Lawrence herself — is earlier than her years and Snow/Sutherland never treats her as annihilation beneath than a aces opponent, their animosity doesn’t feel like that of a jailbait angry adjoin a appreciably brainless adult.

 Catching Fire.Lionsgate

The additional affair the blur does to adhesive Katniss’ bequest is acknowledging that Jennifer Lawrence is its better asset. Her achievement is the key to the franchise’s success, and she delivers her best assignment in Catching Fire. Wisely, she never tries to accomplish Katniss a “chosen one,” abundant beneath a baton or alike a rebel; she alone anytime tries to accomplish her alive. There’s a abhorrence in her performance, aloofness alloyed with barely-conceited abhorrence and a abundant dosage of anger. And yet Lawrence is so convincing, so overwhelming, so absorbing that we accept that a jailbait can become the face of a revolution. The spell, however, was too able because it wasn’t aloof Katniss who became the Mockingjay; it was Jennifer Lawrence herself.

Like The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is about to learn, Catching Fire fabricated it so that the adventure would alone assignment back ascent on Lawrence’s able shoulders. The adventure and worldbuilding are compelling, but will we affliction about Panem if Lawrence isn’t in it? The acknowledgment is apparently a aural “no.”

The activity of a victor

Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, and Jennifer Lawrence as Peeta, Effie, and Katniss on date in The Hunger Games Catching Fire.Image via Lionsgate

Catching Fire avoids the accouterment abounding YA projects face by giving its characters address and gravitas. Building on Lawrence’s acceptability as a tough-as-nails added with a ability above her years, Catching Fire defied and redefined the constrictions of YA. The catechism so generally asked in added agnate movies is, how can these barely-prepared teenagers booty on allegedly boss enemies with annihilation but a few makeshift weapons and some barely-concealed chutzpah?

The acknowledgment is they don’t. Katniss didn’t atom a apostasy by actuality exemplary; she did it by all-embracing her altruism and proving that there’s ability in actuality ordinary. Catching Fire proves that The Hunger Games is not a one-against-the-world adventure but rather a account about how one being can access absolute establishments.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Official Theatrical Trailer (2013) HD

In hindsight, what Catching Fire accomplished was tremendous, so abundant so that it assertive Hollywood that the YA brand was a gold abundance cat-and-mouse to be exploited. Except it wasn’t — not alike its sequels could bout its success, let abandoned any added wannabe copycat. Catching Fire came out at the appropriate time, with the appropriate casting and the appropriate narrative. It was a trailblazer that set an impossibly aerial bar no one abroad matched. In abounding ways, Catching Fire set up its adventure for abortion by peaking too aboriginal and appealing abundant active the YA brand afore it alike began living.

But so what? Catching Fire was never accountable to the YA brand or alike its franchise, alone to itself, and acknowledge god for that. It did what bare to be done with its arch captivated high, article not abounding blockbusters can say. And now, 10 years later, it is assuredly adequate it: the activity of a victor.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is alive on Peacock.

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