The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
When I reviewed the first Hunger Games movie last year, I said that it was an incredibly tamed down version of the brutality we saw in Japan’s Battle Royale. Given this, I didn’t have the highest of expectations for the follow-up, as I largely expected more of the same.
Yes, we once again follow the struggles of Katniss Everdeen from District 12, but we’ve already been introduced to all the core characters and the core paradigm for this world of the near-future. However, just as the previous movie ran for about two-and-a-half hours with the first half being used to set the stage, we once again see this kind of split in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. In the first half, we see the world as it exists after the 74th Hunger Games and we follow Katniss and Peeta as they go on a “victory” tour through the different districts.
The world outside of the over-indulgent Capitol is still in shambles, but the citizens see Katniss as a beacon of hope to fight back against the establishment. In this way, the second movie moves us beyond the actual games themselves (which still occupy the second half of the film) to provide a bigger societal perspective. The acting is arguably better this time around, even if Woody Harrelson’s moments on screen are relatively brief, aided by the addition of Philip Seymour Hoffman as new Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee. We get the sense very quickly that the 75th Hunger Games are going to be different and indeed they are.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that Catching Fire left a lot to be desired. I perfectly understand that this movie really acts as a simple “bridge” between the introduction of the first movie and the conclusion of the trilogy (the third book, Mockingjay is actually being split up into two movies), but we’re still left hanging after the final scene reveal. That’s the point, I suppose, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth. The odds were never in our favor.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
What happens with some other alien species wants to destroy the universe and blanket everything in darkness? What happens when this almost Star Trek-like species has to grab an ancient source of power and then wait for all the realms to align? Clearly, you call in a Norse God with an epic ban hammer. There really is no other way.
It’s fair to say that Catching Fire adds depth and complexity to the world depicted in The Hunger Games, but The Dark World doesn’t do all that much to add a sense of greater purpose to what we already saw in the first Thor movie. The only difference this time around is that Thor (not really a spoiler alert) has to partner up with his “brother” Loki to fight off this new threat. Yes, we get some fun fight scenes and yes, there is some decent comic relief mostly from the likes of Kat Dennings (you might know her from 2 Broke Girls), but Thor: The Dark World still feels like it lacks soul.
We’re left with a universe that is epic in scale and grand in its presentation, but the experience is ultimately generic and stale. If you’re a fan of the Marvel universe, there’s some fun to be had here, but this is certainly not as good as the Avengers movies and it likely won’t be as entertaining as the upcoming Captain America: Winter Soldier either.