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This Is Northern New South Wales


There’s a little bit of a rebellious teenager that remains inside us all, a little voice continuing to whisper in our ear, “to hell with authority – I want to be me”.

The Hunger Games Number One pricked the ears of our 15-year-old alter egos and, through the miasma of teen angst and Hollywood cliche, actually planted the seed of a pretty profound message. The interesting thing that came of this is that, through the first movie and the series of books by Suzanne Collins that inspired the film franchise, a cult following of pubescent activists has arisen. They aren’t swooning over glittery vampires, they aren’t waving sticks and scrawling lightning bolts on their foreheads with Textas, they are standing against the government and demanding independence from authority, albeit metaphorically.


Hunger Games: Catching Fire is part two of the unfolding quadrilogy. Katniss Everdeen, heartthrob and role model of the first film, is now a celebrity as joint winner of the previous year’s Hunger Games, and she and her covert boyfriend, Gale, are struggling against oppression in their home of District 12. But Katniss is leading a double-life. Her celebrity and notoriety is founded on the lie that she is deeply in love with her fellow Hunger Games winner, Peeta Mellark.

But this is not her main problem – the Authority wants her dead. Katniss had challenged the rules of the games by feigning a Romeo and Juliet-esque joint suicide to prevent either herself or Peeta having to kill the other in the finale of the games. This flagrant act of defiance has caused mass civil unrest and underground rebellion against the gross inequality of the nation. Sound familiar?

This intricate web of deceit and corruption is a quagmire of catch-22s. Katniss wants to be truthful to herself, her family and Gale but has to uphold her façade – on the one hand to appease the Authority, but on the other to stand as example and poster girl for the nation’s underclasses. The Authority wants her dead because she has become the figurehead of rebellion, but can’t simply top her for the fear that her martyrdom may prove even more powerful in death.

And so a cunning and corrupt plan is devised: In this, the 75th year of the Hunger Games, all former winners will re-enter the arena to fight for their lives once more. But the hidden roots of the rebellion reach further and deeper than the Authority could ever dare to imagine.

I read a review of the Hunger Games: Catching Fire that had it penned as “one dimensional, standard and…a monumental bore”. I can see the reviewer’s perspective, but it is the same perspective that would have the Toy Story movies touted as childish and naively scripted with plastic performances or the Star Wars movies as far-fetched and unbelievable.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire is for teens, in both book and film manifestation. Those teens can be the screaming girls holding three fingers aloft in pseudo-defiance or adults indulging their inner child. It’s a snowballing Tinseltown juggernaut of pop culture fandom, but there is a point to it all, an underlying message of thinking for yourself, finding your own truth and standing for what you believe in. Kind of ironic that this needs to be preached to us by a big budget blockbuster.

It’s true that Hunger Games: Catching Fire might not be the most grown up of movies, but that’s a bit like complaining that Baskin Robbins isn’t haute cuisine. You get what you pay for, and in this case, the price of admission gets you an emotionally fueled, feel-good teen drama that somehow, if you succumb to the undercurrents, will sweep you up into the impassioned maelstrom of pubescent angst and anti-establishment rebellion.


I shared the auditorium with nine tenths of the target audience. the average viewer’s age was about one third of my own and I definitely felt like the chaperone at a kids’ birthday party, but perhaps this helped me get into the spirit of the film. From my right came swooning comments of idolatry whenever the male lead characters came onscreen, all around me cheers and screams ensued at the appropriate poignant moments. I almost expected boos, hisses and hollers of “he’s behind you!” to be unleashed from the enthralled spectators, such was their fervour.

When you go and see a film like Hunger Games: Catching Fire, you don’t expect the art critic in you to be indulged. But, if you can put that slipper wearing, pipe smoking, leather elbowed fuddy duddy to bed with a nice hot cup of cocoa and sneak out past curfew, your teenage self will love you forever if you go spend the evening with Katniss Everdeen.



Review by: Tommy Leitch – | courtesy of Palace Cinemas. Byron Bay