November 21, 2013

"People are looking to you, Katniss. You've given them an opportunity. They just have to be brave enough to take it."

The Girl on Fire is back. I set my highest expectation on this movie based on 3 sole reasons. First, I was madly in love with the book and its genre was Dystopian YA, my favorite. Second, its predecessor blew me away. Third, I was and still am laying on hope on THG franchise to be the next Harry Potter, though it certainly won’t top HP’s perfections.  And FYI only, Catching Fire was my favorite series of all three books written by Suzanne Collins, so have it your way, I’m trying my best not to become too subjective here. So, how was it?
Took place right after the shocking results of The 74th Hunger Games held by Panem, the two victors from District 12, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) were enjoying their new life, spoiled by Capitol’s colorful blessing and endless food supplies as they continued living their fake on-screen romance (because Katniss had that thing with that mining boy, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), so-called love triangle people) in order to protect their family and themselves from the ruthless Capitol’s President, Snow (Donald Sutherland). A surprise visit occurred right before the Victor Tour began, as President Snow warned Katniss that her previous actions might have triggerred hopes for the people to start a revolution. Indeed he was right;  people started to speak up, declaring their presence against the Capitol, with Katniss as their Mockingjay. Worried he was, President Snow then tried to eliminate Katniss, but fortunately, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) happened. As the new gamemaker, replacing the dead Seneca Crane, Plutarch suggested Snow to take down Katniss by showing her real-self to the world, so that the world would hate her, as the idea of Katniss slowly became one of them was hurtful enough. The answer? The 75th Hunger Games also known as the third Quarter Quell, where all 24 tributes, both boys and girls, were chosen specifically from the previous victors from each districts, regardless the age. As the only girl victor from the District 12, Katniss must once again battle in the arena, with Peeta who quickly volunteered in Haymitch (Woody Harrelson)’s place. But, the game was different now, as all tributes were chosen and highly trained, leaving Katniss and Peeta with no choice but to team up with District’s 4 Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and Mags (Lynn Cohen), unexpected Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) from District 7 and the brainiacs from District 3, Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) and Wiress (Amanda Plummer). They were all fighting for their survival, but what they didn’t know was that this so-called Quarter Quell was planned to be more than just a game ...

I was mesmerized by Gary Ross’s work for the predecessor (regardless the shaky cam, of course), but Francis Lawrence might just outdo Ross’s work. He succeeded on making Capitol looked more ‘alive’, not the cartoonish version of The Great Gatsby like Ross’s. Better CGI,  fancier costumes and make-ups (Effie’s butterfly dress, the astonishing peacekeepers’ outfits, that flaming wedding gown), more terrifying arena (the cornucopia was impeccably translated, just like what the reader imagined from the book), and greater actions with no amount of bloods required. Both of the movies might seem to be very faithful to the book, but surprisingly, Ross and his team of screenwriters, Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt, managed to deepen the characters and add more complexity into the situations thrown in this movie. His presentation was solid, raw, and a little paintful, like it was cutting straight into you, emotionally. He projected the terror, the fear, and the fight very well throughout the entire thrilling and pacified 146 minutes. He provided the Quarter Quell as an enough distraction, though in terms of portion still was balanced with the whole stories. 

As an avid reader of the book, I was glad to see the execution to be this faithful to the book, and as great. Some of you who didn’t read the book might find this movie more to a remake rather than a sequel because of the familiar Quarter Quell and Tributes Tour, but let me tell you, the book delivered precisely that. But, in this movie, I was quite dissapointed because they didn’t explore enough of the tributes vs tributes fight for survival in the Quarter Quell like the book did; it was more like tributes vs Plutarch’s simulation of poisonous fog, steamy blood rain, murderous apes and dangerous tides. Another thing, I also don’t like how they presented the beginning very well, then lost in the middle (not much of a bridge there) to then rose again at the end. Well, that’s it. 

What really stood out from this movie was the outstanding line of cast. Hutcherson was able to deliver a solid and vivid performance, matched up with Lawrence’s strength. Hemsworth portion was, once again, an itty bitty and bland, but he did add quite a sprinkle there on the love triangle aspect, though we weren’t focused on that. Harrelson was being the same-old drunken Haymitch, but this time, he could shut up, good for him. Sutherland was still as stiff and full-of-stares as ever, but he indeed delivered chill. Stanley Tucci once again captured our heart with that sinistic smile and distinguished tone of Capitol’s favorite TV host, Caesar Flickerman. Elizabeth Banks showed some cracks behind that ounces of Effie Trinket’s make-up and boy was it memorable. The newcomers weren’t dissapointing as well; duo Wright-Plummer were much as I expected them to be. Jena Malone there was a morphine; I always hate Johanna Mason in the book, but when she portrayed her, BAM, I love her. The dissapointment might just come from Claflin’s Odair. He got the most scenes there as Katniss-Peeta’s sidekick, but he wasn’t as charming as he supposed to be. Claflin was hot and very much compatible to be a hero (I’m talking about Aquaman here), but he wasn’t quite daring and I’m sorry, I couldn’t root for him. BUT PEOPLE, I SHOULD STOP TALKING, BECAUSE THIS WAS A JENNIFER LAWRENCE’S SHOW. Yap, she outdid them all, even herself in the previous installment. Post-THG Katniss was suffering from PTSD, constantly living in terror, guilt and fear and it really showed from her careful and fragile demeanor, as well as those eyes of her which pretty much summed it all. Her character was pretty much real and relatable and we fond of her, we root for her, and she indeed was the Mockingjay. Brilliant performance there, Miss Lawrence. 

I gave THG 5/5 stars and this sequel was pretty much near that. I love everything about this movie, period. Yes, the cliffhanging ending was annoying, but well, I couldn’t help but saying that I couldn’t wait for the Mockingjay, both parts. MUST WATCH. RECOMMENDED. YOU’RE A FOOL IF YOU DON’T.

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