The Hunger Games franchise returns to cinemas with the release of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Set 60 years before Katniss Everdeen entered the fray, the prequel follows a young Coriolanus Snow as he becomes the character fans loved to hate in the original saga. Although strong, although overloaded and defective, The Ballad of Songbirds and Serpents is nowhere near the level of the original tetralogy starring Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence as the rebel archer. Because, even though it takes place in the same world and features most of the same themes, Ballad missing all of the nuance and impactful storytelling that made The Hunger Games such a phenomenon.
As Catch fire celebrates its 10th anniversary, and with The Ballad of Songbirds and Serpents in theaters, it’s the perfect time to look back on the legacy of the 2013 film. Time has only been kind to Catch firecementing it not only as the undisputed winner of the YA battle, but also as a near-perfect film for its time and place.
The YA craze
To understand Catch fireBecause of the resounding success and legacy of , one must first understand the context in which it was created. The YA genre was strong but not a heavy hitter; Harry Potter was more fantasy than YA, as were Percy Jackson, Narnia, and all the other imitators chasing the Boy Who Lived crown. The main exponent of the YA genre, and the franchise that truly brought it to the mainstream, was Dusk.
Enough time has passed for us to admit that the Twilight movies aren’t just bad; they are horrible. They are poorly made, terribly paced and downright stupid. Robert Pattinson and Oscar nominee Kristen Stewart are great at playing the roles they’re given, but everything else in the films, including their co-stars, is terrible. The Twilight movies are atrocious, and even nostalgia can’t make you believe otherwise; on the contrary, seeing them again now makes you realize how ridiculous and borderline embarrassing they are. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fun time, but hardly anyone watches them and feels anything other than cringe.
Enter The hunger Gamesa film that carried its political and social connotations on its cover and featured a one-of-a-kind talent as the protagonist. The hunger Games came out months later The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, probably the worst entry in the vampire saga. Because it was pure and unadulterated YA, The hunger Games was considered the logical heir of the future deceased Duskand calling it an upgrade would be generous. The hunger Games is a good film in itself, but aside Duskit’s borderline masterful.
The audience responded enthusiastically. Critics and viewers were eager to recognize The hunger Games, the first truly great YA film. Katniss Everdeen alone legitimized the genre, proving that teen-centric storylines could deliver the same “elevated” entertainment that became so popular in the 2010s, and things were just getting started. One year later, Catch fire capitalized on the goodwill of its predecessor, instantly becoming the pinnacle of the YA genre. If The hunger Games dominated his peers, Catch fire totally eclipsed them.
The YA genre is not difficult to analyze. From their love of the dystopian setting to their penchant for casting truly impressive young talents, YA films are all cut from the same cloth – the stuff of The Hunger Games, and more specifically, Catch fire. The second installment of the Katniss saga defied all expectations and limitations, producing a thought-provoking, exhilarating and extremely compelling tale capable of being among the best films of 2014, and I say that without irony. Watch the 2014 Best Picture Nominees and Tell Me Catch fire is no better than at least half of them. The fact that a dystopian, teen-centric action film could provoke such a reaction from critics and audiences was and remains nothing short of impressive, especially today, when blockbusters struggle to be picked up. seriously as cinematic efforts, let alone actual works of art. .
The cast on fire
We talked a lot about Catch fireHighlights: Its tight, fast-paced plot, heightened stakes, and stellar additions of some of The Hunger Games’ best characters. However, I think Catch fire‘s greatest strength lies in its casting. The saga had already proven its ability to offer some of the most inspired casting choices in modern blockbusters, from Elizabeth Banks to scene-stealing Stanley Tucci and, of course, Jennifer Lawrence herself.
However, Catch fire took things to a new level of cool with its new cast. You have the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeffrey Wright, as well as a perfectly cast Sam Claflin as the evil Finnick. But then you get to the ever-underrated Jena Malone; then you turn around and see Lynn Cohen. And who plays Wiress? Amanda Plummer, Emmy winner?! While other franchises were drafting big names left and right, Catch fire gave familiar but underrated actors a chance to shine, and we were all the better for it.
Most important, Catch fire‘s greatest triumph is to solidify Katniss as an authentic, three-dimensional, inspiring character rather than just a YA figurehead. The hunger Games I might have introduced the girl, but Catch fire literally lit it up. To do this, the film does two crucial things. First, it develops the two most complex and fascinating relationships in the saga; contrary to what one might think, I am not talking about Katniss and Peeta, even less about Katniss and Gale. I’m talking about Katniss and Haymitch and, of course, Katniss and Snow.
Katniss Everdeen is the star of the Hunger Games franchise, and Lawrence valiantly steers the ship. However, Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch and Donald Sutherland’s President Snow are crucial elements of the saga. Catch fire explores both relationships, resulting in refreshing and thoughtful takes on the traditional mentor-mentee and hero-villain dynamic. The first film presents Haymitch as a mentor, but Catch fire expands his role to that of a friend and peer to Katniss; he may be more experienced, but he is not more mature. There is a unique rhythm to their interactions; maybe they don’t love each other entirely, but they’re comfortable with each other, providing something they’ve both needed for years: peace. It’s an extremely memorable and surprisingly tender relationship that will become the heart of the series.
On the other hand, Katniss and Snow are locked in a curious dance. Far too focused on each other to stop but too tired to continue, the two characters face each other with respect and even admiration. Because Katniss – and Lawrence herself – are older than her years and Snow/Sutherland never treats her as anything other than a worthy opponent, their rivalry does not resemble that of a teenager fighting an adult remarkably stupid.
The second thing the film does to solidify Katniss’s legacy is recognize that Jennifer Lawrence is her greatest asset. Her performance is key to the franchise’s success and she delivers her best work in Catch fire. Wisely, she never tries to make Katniss a “chosen one”, much less a leader or even a rebel; she is only trying to make it come alive. There is a reticence to his performance, a stoicism mixed with a barely conceited dislike and a strong dose of anger. And yet Lawrence is so convincing, so moving, so electrifying that you believe a teenager can become the face of a revolution. The spell, however, was too powerful as it wasn’t just Katniss who became the mockingjay; it was Jennifer Lawrence herself.
As The Ballad of Songbirds and Serpents is about to learn, Catch fire made the saga only work by standing on Lawrence’s capable shoulders. The story and world-building are compelling, but will we care about Panem if Lawrence isn’t in it? The answer is probably a resounding “no.”
The life of a winner
Catch fire avoids the pitfalls that many YA projects face by giving its characters dignity and gravitas. Building on Lawrence’s reputation as a badass actress with maturity beyond her years, Catch fire challenged and redefined the constraints of YA. The question so often asked in other similar films is: How can these barely prepared teenagers take on supposedly powerful enemies with nothing more than a few makeshift weapons and barely concealed audacity?
The answer is no. Katniss didn’t start a rebellion by being exemplary; she did so by embracing her humanity and proving that there is power in being ordinary. Catch fire proves that The Hunger Games is not a one-versus-the-world story but rather a story about how one person can influence entire establishments.
In hindsight, what Catch fire The success it achieved was tremendous, so much so that it convinced Hollywood that the YA genre was a gold mine just waiting to be exploited. Except it wasn’t – even its sequels couldn’t match its success, let alone any other aspiring imitators. Catch fire came out at the right time, with the right cast and the right story. He was a pioneer who set the bar incredibly high that no one else has matched. In many ways, Catch fire derailed its saga by reaching its climax too soon and pretty much burying the YA genre before it even began to live.
But then what? Catch fire has never been beholden to the YA genre or even its franchise, only to itself, and thank goodness for that. It did what it had to do with its head held high, which is something few blockbusters can say. And now, 10 years later, he is finally enjoying it: the life of a winner.
Hunger Games – Catching Fire is streaming on Peacock.