1) The feel of the different districts, especially District 12
One quality stood out above all others the second time I watched The Hunger Games back in 2012. The first time through, I was distracted by the relatively fresh version of Panem that I had envisioned based on my reading of the book, so I couldn’t appreciate many of the bold choices director Gary Ross had made with his adaptation. The second time, though, I was struck by the level of confidence shown in the introductory scenes, up to and including the Reaping.
The aesthetic employed in these District 12 moments in the first movie was surprising from an aspiring blockbuster. The scenes were stripped of virtually all color, both in terms of the images as well as the expressiveness of the characters. It almost feels as though Katniss and Gale are being defiant by briefly joking around. There’s next to no music underscoring the action. It feels precisely like a neglected region, stripped down, with no stylistic flourishes or liveliness to speak of. Some members of the audience were likely lost by doing this; others, like me, were shaken into actually paying attention and taking this action seriously.
Catching Fire maintains and expands on this template, with a slightly different look to District 12 reflecting the signs of life and lively dissonance in the country. This is one of the things that make the Victory Tour sequence so effective: the overwhelming sense is that these are profoundly downtrodden people looking for something to latch onto, and that ends up being Katniss.
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