Hot Blooded : Suzanne Collins – “Catching Fire”

ABOVE: This is not a Leni Riefenstahl film, surprisingly enough.

I was an early adopter when it came to Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” but then the rest of the plebes caught on and… things aren’t as much fun when they’re no longer our little secrets, are they? Everyone fell in love with Katniss Everdeen, and pretended she was the bearer of the Heaven-sent Holy Water to be splashed on the “Twilight” saga. The sequels sold more and more obscenely. People started wearing the mockingjay pins on the streets in shows of defiance. Then there were the uprisings in Districts 3 through 11.

Ok, maybe there weren’t uprisings, but there WAS, of course, that little Jennifer Lawrence movie you might have heard of. For some terrible reason, it featured Lenny Kravitz. How cool can anything be once it features Lenny Kravitz? 

ABOVE: “Relax and stare deep into my eyes. My ‘acting’ will now make you very, very sleepy.”

I’ve just re-read “Catching Fire” in preparation for the big-screen sequel. This time I appreciated more how deftly Collins contrives to get Katniss right back into the Hunger Games, (it’s not like one just STUMBLES into those.)  Unfortunately, a second read also made me more aware of the many plot holes pockmarking the continent of Panem, and of the wobbliness of  the love triangle between Kat, Peeta and Gale. How can it not be wobbly, when Kat is such a vivid character and the dudes at the base are the same weakly-characterized love-dope? 

Are you “Team Peeta” or “Team Gale”? It really depends on which name you find dorkier. I myself go for Little Pee, as I call him, because I think Kat-Pee just sounds good together.

Collins artificially complicates the non-issue by throwing in the nearly-nude Finnick Odair, (Aquaman with a good tan.) Say one thing for Stephenie Meyer: her empire was built on a silly but recognizable teen passion. Collins, on the other hand, tacks the love story on almost begrudgingly, as though her editor threatened to drop her on Thunderdome if she didn’t comply with the formula.

But fine, fine, it’s just a “fight-the-power” allegory; it’s almost a PLUS that the love story doesn’t bog us down.

No, it’s the ending of the Game in “Catching Fire” that bothered me… and now I realized why.

(SPOILER)

It’s the same ending as “The Hunger Games”! What made the last few pages to that first book so rushed and ultimately unsatisfying for me is that Collins resorted to a Deus Ex Machina to get her heroine out of trouble. (President Snow sort of “call things off” by breaking the rules of the Hunger Games and letting Kat and Peeta have a very empty “win.”)

It just struck me that “Catching Fire” resorts to the DEM again! Once more our heroine is in trouble, and how will she get out of it? Through her renowned courage? Intelligence? Resourcefulness? No, Collins brings in the Deus Ex Machina to save the day. REALLY! A machine comes down from the sky to pick our girl up and negate the whole troublesome situation! Does it make sense that the savior machine was sent by the same Game Master who has been relentlessly throwing poison gas and deadly monkeys and what-nots at Katniss? No, it really, really doesn’t. (Unless you want to see some dichotomous religious imagery there. Feel free; the guy IS called Heavensbee.)

In any case, what happens at the end of both “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire” is a little like if you were playing Monopoly, hopelessly in debt but still struggling along, and suddenly the Bank picked up your thimble or top-hat or whatever from the board and said: “Rules have changed! Game is over, and the one with the most debt wins!” Lucky for you! But it’s just not a satisfying game of Monopoly. You won, but you were denied agency, (if I may indulge in psycho-babble.)

ABOVE: The # 1 rule of the Hunger Games is: rules will change as convenient.

To deny agency to someone as cool as Katniss Everdeen twice is a flaw. For such a vaguely Randian tale, it’s weird how other people end up being responsible for Kat’s fate so frequently.

RATING: COOL! Or is it HOT?

POST-SCRIPT:

Nit-picking aside, I love this series and still find it preferable to its clones, replicants and competitors, (although that dreaded Veronica Roth Divergent trilogy is probably in my future.)

SOON: Thoughts on re-reading “Mockingjay.”

And now for the bird sounds of Miss Taylor Swift, accompanied by the Civil Wars. (The folk-rock duo, not the actual wars.)

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4 thoughts on “Hot Blooded : Suzanne Collins – “Catching Fire”

  1. That song is amazing! With all its flaws, Hunger Games remains one of the best YA series in this decade. I think Collins redeemed herself with the ending of Mockingjay. For me, the third book was the best even though a lot of people disliked it.

  2. Pingback: And Your Bird Can Sing : Suzanne Collins – “Mockingjay” | THE PAGEAHOLIC

  3. Pingback: My Top Books – 2013 | THE PAGEAHOLIC

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