“Since the last Games, something’s different. I can see it.”

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Anyone who has known me over the fast few years has undoubtedly noticed my affection for The Hunger Games series. I read the books the first time over a weekend; I just couldn’t stop reading. It reminded me of the days when I first read Harry Potter (the greatest love of my life, along with Hanson), where I would marathon read, my neck cramping and eyes blurry because I can’t stop without knowing what happens. The Hunger Games hooked me.

I fell in love with Katniss, the strong female lead who is a good role model for young girls (especially in the wake of “if you leave me, I’ll die” Bella Swan), and the supporting characters were all believable and interesting. And the premise. Ooo. I do love me a good dystopia (and thanks to the success of THG, teen dystopias became all the rage, which means I have that many more to read… even though most are super weak in comparison, though I did love super-flawed Divergent and Matched).  Not to mention, I was already a fan of Japan’s Battle Royale, which is basically the same premise but heavier on the gore. Are there flaws in THG? Absolutely. Do I care? No.

When I taught the first book the first time (yay for being an English teacher), I became completely wrapped up in it. Every time I teach it (it’s been 3 times now), it basically becomes my life. When my students need to find vocab words, it doesn’t take me long to find it, I’ve read the book so many times.

Then the movie came out, which was… meh. You can read my full review here, but basically, though I loved it and LOVE Jennifer Lawrence (I basically want to be her), I was disappointed with many of the details.

Then came Catching Fire. Oh My God. I LOVED this film. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read the second book in the series as many times, so I didn’t notice the details they failed to include, but I thought the transition from page to screen worked so well. Not only is the eye candy amazing – between Josh Hutchenson, Liam Hemsworth, and Sam Claflin, plus JLaw for my girl crush – I was good; but there’s so much more than that. The film was a rollercoaster ride of emotions. I went from tearing up at the scene in District 11 to angry at the Capitol, to laughing at Haymitch and Effie, to suspense in the arena, to tears at Mags, to suspense at the monkeys… you get the picture.

Having read the book, I already knew the plot twists and secrets, but that didn’t make it any less enjoying. In fact, I had a lot of fun with Boy next to me; angry at characters I knew to be good and worried about characters I knew would die. His review, by the way, was a 10/10 (it’s worth noting our first movie we ever saw together in theaters was the first installment).

Everything translated so well. I loved Finnick, played by Sam Claflin, and Jena Malone’s Johanna was perfect (I do have a soft spot for the crazy bitches though… Clove was one of my favorites in the first book). I liked being able to see Betee’s wiring project and the Arena itself, which matched the descriptions pretty well. It was also interesting to see the Capitol’s side of things, a continuing element from the first movie that helps with suspense and red herons. I also felt the portrayal of the animosity of the tributes toward the Capitol, and the unfairness of it all was spot-on. The interview scene was done very well. I almost felt sorry for Caesar Flickerman.

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And, oh, the costumes. I wish I could dress like Katniss. She has so many good looks in Catching Fire; from the tour outfits that are comfortable yet flattering, to the gorgeous wedding dress-turned-mockingjay. I also thought the “girl on fire” look was ten times better than it was in the first movie, where it looked obviously fake; here the smoldering coal look was more believable and entrancing.

o-CATCHING-FIRE-PHOTOS-570Then there was the love triangle. This is how I feel about the whole Katniss – Peeta – Gale drama: if Katniss had never gone into the Hunger Games, she and Gale would’ve been meant to be, but because she endured the Games with Peeta, a connection forged between them that could never be broken. Sure, Gale is strong and handsome and good for her, but he brings out the dark side of Katniss. Peeta, on the other hand, is calm and peaceful, traits Katniss needs to balance her out. Gale will never understand the Games the same way Peeta does, and so he will never understand the bond between Katniss and Peeta. Katniss fights it because she wants a choice, and she feels the Games and the Capitol concocted her relationship with Peeta, even though her feelings are true. It isn’t until the scene on the beach that you see Katniss’ true feelings for Peeta come out, and it’s lovely to watch. Not to mention, Josh beefed up between films, so it’s not even an easy “Gale’s hotter” decision anymore. But oh, there was so much more kissing. Thank catchingfirestill3 goodness.

When I watch movies or read books that really grab me, I know I love them because of how they affect me emotionally. If I spend the next few days replaying them in my head, empathizing with the characters and wishing I were in the world, I know it was done well. Catching Fire was no exception here. I couldn’t help but feel the same trapped feeling as Katniss, the surrealness of being back in the Arena, but this time knowing there’s no escape. As she watches Cinna’s beating and is lifted into the Arena, a feeling of “Oh, God, it’s really happening and I’m not ready for this” washed over me. When she conspired with Peeta about leaving the alliance, knowing there’s no way out of the Arena but death, I felt it. Call me crazy, but I did. And that is a mark of something good.

Though the third book is my least favorite in the trilogy, I’m excited for the two-part installment (thanks, Harry Potter, for that trend… while you may have needed the six hours to tell the final book, now every film adaptation feels it needs multiple movies as well, when all it really wants is more money…  I’m looking at you Twilight and The Hobbit).  I can’t wait to see the end play out, and more Haymitch on screen is always a bonus.

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