Movie Muses: Catching Fire Does The Love Triangle… Well?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I hope that all of you fabulous readers have plans to eat, drink, and be merry with your loved ones and friends.  I currently have pumpkin bread in the oven and am about to face a very blustery, rainy, cold drive on my way to my family’s house where we shall eat far too much of everything and enjoy each other’s company in the process.

And now for the last of my movie reviews for this month.  I’ve enjoyed focusing on film for a bit; it’s been a great month for movie watching.  I will preface this review with two important comments.  First of all, I will not be spoiling anything from the film in my commentary.  I feel very strongly about avoiding that if at all possible, so you should feel at ease to read if you haven’t yet seen the film.  Secondly, I have read all the books and seen the first film, so this is my perspective on it as someone who knows the series decently well, although I am not a die hard fan.

hunger games catching fire katniss peeta posterI enjoyed the first film more than I expected, especially after some of the reviews that I read and the complaints I saw.  I do make a habit of going into films (especially those based on books) without any expectations so that the film can prove itself or not.  Preparing to watch the second film, Catching Fire, I really didn’t have expectations one way or the other.  I had heard it was good, perhaps better than the first, but I wasn’t excited.  I wasn’t skeptical either.  I was just ready for whatever it had to offer.

Somewhat to my surprise, I thoroughly loved Catching Fire.  I loved it more than the first film.  I loved it more than its novel counterpart.  I really, really liked it.  Several things about it caught my attention.  It was emotional, exciting, and engaging.  The characters were strong and interesting.  The story was even more compelling than I remember.  It was a great movie!

So with that ringing endorsement (and you can now blame me for raising your expectations if you end up disliking it), I will focus my commentary on one element of the storytelling since that’s what I’ve been trying to do this month.

katniss gale peetaOne storytelling cliché that has become frankly tiresome and particularly overused in young adult fiction is the “love triangle.”  This could go under my “Instant Plot” series as well because it seems like authors think that as soon as they add romantic tension with a complicating third member, they can create all sorts of additional (often unnecessary) drama in which the central character who is being fought over drifts from one to the other (oh, but she’s so beautiful! oh but she’s so nice!  oh but he’s so rich! oh but he’s so noble!)  And on and on it goes.

We are probably all thinking of a particular young adult series that had a pretty major love triangle going on.  But I’m not going to talk about that.  I’m going to talk about Catching Fire and the fact that a love triangle can actually be done well, something that I wasn’t entirely sure was possible.

Again, I don’t want to provide spoilers so I’m going to keep this general, but I don’t think anything I’m going to say is going to destroy the plot for anyone.  The last movie set up the love triangle pretty clearly, anyway.

catching fire chariot costume

Literally catching fire… how splendid of them

We have Katniss in the middle, our eminently desirable female lead.  She has a long-standing unboyfriend Gale and a new fake boyfriend Peeta.  The drama comes in when we realize that Katniss isn’t necessarily drawn toward either of them while they both like her.  In the second movie, the romantic tension builds as Katniss actually comes to realize that these two boys are interested and that she has feelings (ever so complicated feelings!) in return.

So how was it any different from any other love triangle ever?  The difference is in the fact that all three members of this romance treat the situation with maturity.  Instead of snarling and marking territory (which, let’s face it, would have been kind of weird, anyway), Gale and Peeta recognize that they’re really on the same side in the grand scheme of things and that there are more important things going on (le gasp!) than their romantic feelings.

This is where love triangles become so ridiculous: when the members of the dramatic little group start being petty, unreasonable, and overly possessive (which an author often believes makes for a more exciting story), they cease to be particularly admirable for a lot of their audience as well.  Are we really impressed when our heroine makes out with one hero and then realizes that no, no, she actually would rather make out with the other one…but wait, no… never mind… maybe… uh….

gale katniss catching fireWhat makes the movie perhaps stronger than the book in a way is that we get to see things from outside of Katniss’s admittedly limited perspective.  We see facial expressions and emotions that she is sometimes unaware of.  We also see her responses as third-party viewers.

I’ll be honest, this is a love triangle in the sense that Katniss is drawn to both boys in different ways, but she doesn’t play back and forth with them.  She is honest; they are honest; and the story plays out in a way that makes sense and doesn’t cause a lot of nausea for those of us who are frankly tired of love triangles in young adult fiction.

This only goes to show that even the most feared and hated clichés can, in fact, be used well.  If we let our characters be real and act in a way that makes sense to who they are rather than in a way that simply drives the plot or heightens the drama at the expense of reason, we might make use of something that seems completely overdone and we might do it well.

catching fire katniss peeta galeIt’s nice to conclude the month with a positive review of a good movie.  Hopefully some of the upcoming films here at the end of the year will be equally enjoyable.  What did you think of this year’s movies so far?  Are there any you are looking forward to?

And, to everyone, a very happy Thanksgiving!

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About Melissa

generally in love with things Celtic, mythological, fantastic, sharp and pointy, cute and fuzzy, intellectual, snarky, cheerful, or some combination thereof. Such things as sarcastic bunnies wielding claymores might come to mind...

Posted on November 27, 2013, in Books, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Melissa Rogers, Movie Reviews, The Hunger Games and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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