Tensions run thick in the second installment of the Hunger Games film franchise. It’s darker, grittier, more intense and edgier than the first. But, while watching the sequel to last year’s box office hit I learned one thing. I honestly don’t like this movie. I think, for me personally, what makes it so unlikeable is that fact that none of the characters are really that likable, except for Haymitch Abernathy, played by Woody Harrelson (Zombieland & Now You See Me).
Haymitch really is the only relatable character in the whole story. Haymitch is a washed up, booze-gargling Hunger Games victor who appears to suffer a touch of post-traumatic stress disorder from his time spent competing in the Hunger Games.
His only relief: a deep dive into the whiskey well. He is like the war veteran who comes home from battle and can’t shake the feeling of what is like to be amidst the danger. He’s sympathetic and pathetic and you really do feel sorry for him. He survived the brutality of the Hunger Games, but only in body. His spirit seems to be forever broken by the exposure to mindless violence during the games.
But now, he has to coach two young teenagers, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, X-Men: First Class & Silver Linings Playbook) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson; Red Dawn & The Kids Are Alright) through their tenure as the most recent victors of the 74th annual Hunger Games.
Catching Fire has potential. There is a good story unfolding and the excitement just keeps building. The cast is littered with talented actors like Donald Sutherland who plays the evil mastermind President Snow who has campaigned a personal vendetta against Katniss and Peeta. Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones & The Fifth Estate) lends his talents to the film as the quirky and bombastic television host Caesar Flickerman, who keeps the whole world in touch with the goings-on of Katniss Peeta and the rest of the victors. One of the newest members of the cast is Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt & Moneyball) as Plutarch Heavensbee, Head Gamemaker of the Hunger Games.
The movie begins to fall apart with the characters themselves. The problem is that the characters are simply archetypes of who they are and there isn’t much more depth than that. Katniss is the jaded loner who doesn’t need anyone; strong and independent, she can take on any challenge. To me, she just comes off as a tomboy playing the exhausted “tough-guy” routine like an old VHS tape that’s been watched too many times. Peeta is too whiny, constantly trying to prove that he’s man enough to step to a fight, but when it comes to Katniss, the object of his affections, he just can’t cope with the fact that she’s just not that into him.
Anyone from District 1 drives me berserk. I understood what the writers were going for and I know the audience is supposed to be angry at the 1%, but I find it hard to sympathize with the 98% when they’re so shallowly written. It’s isn’t the fault of the actor, either. They do a great job with what they are given and I see a great story unfolding. I just can’t get on board with characters themselves.
I’m a fan of Stanley Tucci. I loved his performance in The Lovely Bones and thought he was hilarious in The Impostors, but I couldn’t bear to watch one more scene with Caesar Flickerman.
The other victors, collectively, were obnoxious and immediately unlikeable. From the girl with the sharpened teeth to the tech genius and right down to the sweet little old lady that is just so obviously innocent that you think she is going to surprise you and become some badass obstacle for Katniss and Peeta to overcome.
If I had to give the film a rating, I’d really have to give it two: First, 3.5 stars for story-telling and plot development. Job well done there, but as the characterization, I’m sorry its a 2 stars. That is where the story suffered the most for me. The only character I could get on board with was Woody Harrelson’s and eventually, it became a waiting game to see when he was going to pop up again.
To all the Hunger Games fans, I say see it if you wish. I’m glad to know what you think, but to those who are just looking to spend an evening at the movies, pick something else and save this one for Netflix.