Catching Fire was not a particularly easy book to read  and it ended abruptly. The movie itself hit many of the high notes of the book itself, capturing the lying and deception of Katniss and Peeta, along with the way in which they share genuine feelings if they feel forced to play a closer relationship than they really feel. Katniss in particular is a tormented soul, as portrayed sympathetically by Jennifer Lawrence in what is in general a well-acted film. The fact that the film is clearly a transitional midpoint between the introduction of The Hunger Games and the resolution of Mockingjay, and the fact that much of the plot serves as a near-repetition of what has gone before along with hints of what is to come does make it more of a slow burn than a blaze, but there is a poignant sense of sadness all the same.
As someone who has had a rather public and lengthy struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, the portrayal of Katniss’ flashbacks and nightmares was rather painful to me. The fact that all of the victors were damaged by their experiences, embittered by false promises of safety and security, drowning themselves in the bottle, or in anger, or attempting to find love, or playing one game or another, was a rather sad reflection on the way that trauma damages us all. To be sure, there are a lot more violent and grimly realistic portrayals of children fighting other children for the entertainment of a jaded society (Battle Royale springs to mind), but even if this particular series lacks the sort of epic grandeur of the best of literature, making it somewhat unlikely that it will be well-liked decades from now in the fashion of C.S. Lewis or Tolkien, it does speak to the urgency of our times and to the fact that many young people (and some of us that are not so young anymore) can relate very strongly to the horrific scene it describes, as well as the way in which it portrays the manipulative nature of media even while serving as a particularly arresting example of media itself.
One of the phrases repeated often in the movie that I do not remember being repeated so often in the book, and one that makes the point of the movie a bit less subtle, is the phrase, “Remember who the real enemy is.” The real enemy of the victors in the fight are not each other. To be sure, they are rivals, but they are no more the real enemies than one group of downtrodden people trying to survive and make the best of it is to other people of the same condition. Any exploitative sort of state feels the need to pit some groups of people against others, to divide and conquer, because in such a society the number of real elites is always small and the number of those who are not is always much larger, always possessing serious grievances that can easily become explosive. In such an environment, control must be maintained by pitting people against each other who might otherwise unite, and also eliminating or co-opting any potential leaders of such groups in order to prevent what is merely a frightening possibility from becoming an actuality.
If we are chosen for a part in matters far larger than ourselves, and if we have been scarred to our very core, there is nowhere we can run where we can escape from what we have been chosen to face. Everywhere we go, every choice we make, we will only wrap ourselves deeper and deeper within the central puzzle or mystery of our creation. There is nowhere we can hide from either the call of our Creator or the demons we have to stare down along the way. There is no place that offers a respite from our struggles, or a place that is free from the complications that result from the lives we have lived or the experiences we have had. Not even the grave offers us more than a temporary sleep, before we are held accountable for the way we have lived the lives appointed to us. Let us therefore strive to use our experiences as a way to encourage and build up, rather than see ourselves continually divided against each other for the benefit of others, who remain prisoners of their own fears and captives of their own longings, just like the rest of us.