Lionsgate released the first The Hunger Games: Catching Fire trailer two(?) days ago. I’ve been thinking a lot about it, because while the glimpses we get here have the making for a much more epic movie than the original Hunger Games, it also leaves me feeling a little uneasy. It just doesn’t seem like the same basic story than I found in the books.
First, the video. And obviously, there are loads of spoilers in the trailer and my comments below.
There’s a lot to love here. The graffiti about the odds being ever in our favor, Katniss’s being slightly lost in herself in District Eleven, Effie’s complete and utter ridiculousness, and the way Plutarch is really walking the edge of a knife in his discussion with Snow. I also really like the touches of affluence in Katniss’s family, like Prim’s much more elaborate hairstyle.
But there seems something not quite right (perhaps only a little not right, but persistently so) about Katniss’s character, and I think I’m finally starting to figure out what that is. She strikes me here as someone very much in danger of turning into a mini-Effie: someone without strength of her ownsomeone who is ridiculous and consumed by appearances. She seems, quite simply, like the very creature that book!Gale accuses her of being when he gives back Cinna’s gloves: someone who belongs with the Capitol now.
In the books, there’s a few things that contribute to how Gale got this impression. First, there’s Cray, the original head peacekeeper who’s something of a soft touch. Katniss grew up surrounded by hunger and she certainly saw the Capitol as cruel (they could have lived better if her father had been allowed to sell bows, they turn her people against each other, their mines killed her father, etc.) but to her in many ways they’re almost silly, people who need to be pacified and taken seriously, but their cruelty comes more from ignorance than true malice in her eyes. She’s not grown up with whippings and executions being a routine occurrence, and while she hates the Capitol she can also laugh at her stylists and become genuinely attached to Cinna. The Victors’ Tour is a real awakening for her in that way.
Then there’s the fact that Katniss is both traumatized by her time in the arena (rightly!) and has been purposely threatened by Snow, who’s presented as a much more dangerous specimen than he seems here. (He strikes me almost as the Mitt Romney of Panem: a bit awkward and doltish, but only dangerous because he’s used to such an excessive lifestyle which makes other people seem so insignificant. She’s been led to believe that her trick with the berries – which, really, was just about getting home to her family and a growing fondness for Peeta – has put all those people in very real danger. Snow’s threatened her with their death unless she performs very well on the Tour. But Snow makes it sound like she could succeed if she plays it right, and he’s also made her feel like not playing along wouldn’t accomplish anything anyway.
All of which helps explain why she goes along with Snow’s instruction on the Tour and why her instinct is to run rather than fight back in District Twelve. Here, we get the impression that literally everyone, even Prim(!) wants to fight the Capitol. Everyone other than Katniss. The scene with Haymitch just makes her look selfish, short-sighted, and weak, when in the book her reaction to the news that she’ll never be able to give up the ruse is much more controlled, even Stoic. (Peeta’s reaction in that scene also just falls flat, but that’s not so great a surprise given the way the movie has characterized him.) In the Capitol, Katniss is almost a little too self-possessed; she seems like she’s become a part of the Capitol world, almost sees herself as in Snow’s circle when in reality she should be anxiously trying to gauge whether she’s succeeded.
I’m afraid we’re getting set up for a Denethor moment, when all the factors that explain her actions in the books simply aren’t in the movie. The trailer also makes it seem like the revolution is about Katniss, that the new Games are a last-minute idea that occurred to Snow prompted to Katniss simply being too prideful. Which really isn’t the case in the books. Katniss is the flashpoint for something much bigger than herself. I think that’s one reason the trilogy works so well for me despite its lack of worldbuilding: Katniss was always a very small part of the picture and not the one most informed on what’s going on, so the fact that things don’t make sense from her vantage point doesn’t mean they don’t make sense objectively. Part of that relied on our being kept in the dark about what was really going on in the halls of power, and the movies seem to be going too far away from that model.
You can only tell so much from a trailer of course. I still hope it will come off better than it promises to here. But I am a bit concerned.
What do you think? Did you like the glimpses we get in the trailer? Why or why not?