Rather than doing full reviews for either of these (there are plenty of wonderful reviews of both available on fan sites for The Hunger Games and Divergent) I simply want to express my thoughts about both without having to analyze each work in full detail. There may be spoilers below, so tread cautiously if you don’t want to learn things about either Catching Fire or Allegiant before experiencing them for yourself.
I went into Catching Fire with cautious optimism. I had heard a mixture of opinions on the latest film, but I was hopeful that I would enjoy it more than the first installment. I was not disappointed; I came out of the movie theater with the feeling that Catching Fire was a better film than The Hunger Games, but I hadn’t been blown away. The pacing felt better, the effects were bigger (GOOO BIGGER BUDGET!), but it still lacked an indefinable something that I needed to say “This is a great film.”
One of my biggest gripes is that I’m realizing I don’t like Josh Hutcherson/Jennifer Lawrence as an on-screen couple. The studio insists that they have chemistry, but it’s just not coming across on screen for me. It really didn’t help that Gale’s kisses with Katniss were upped from one to two while the scenes with Peeta were shortened (hello, the beach scene is supposed to feel slow and sensual not “Oh yeah, this is important, so we’ll shoehorn it in here.) If I’d been a Katniss/Gale shipper this interpretation of their relationship would have made me very happy.
The things that were cut and changed threw things off for me as well, and, no, I’m not bitching about Bonnie and Twill. I could see where their part of the story was cut, but given the resulting story clocks in at 2 hours 20 minutes (or thereabouts) their loss was a necessary evil. The part that broke my brain was KATNISS suggesting her marriage to Peeta instead of President Snow. Say what? The scene was so out of character for my interpretation of the Girl on Fire, and then it missed the opportunity for Haymitch’s line about how the romance in the first Games wasn’t pretend for Peeta. Cutting President Snow from the wedding plans made his demand that Katniss wear a wedding dress to the interviews seem incredibly creepy and weird. It’s definitely both in the books, but you can understand why he has a
say since he’s the mastermind behind the whole production.
My other primary complaint is the reason behind Gale’s whipping. Yes, he’s a hothead, and he’s becoming more and more of a revolutionary, but Gale is also smart. He would not risk his family’s safety to attack a Peacekeeper before District 12 has organized. I just don’t buy it.
I have a multitude of smaller gripes around limited characterization for the other victors although this installment gave more backstory than the first film. After listening to The Katniss Chronicles I was genuinely surprised that Finnick didn’t have a Cajun accent, and Mags not speaking at all seemed a cheap cop out to get around her speech issues.
Despite all that I’m saying I didn’t feel cheated by the film. It was lush, beautiful, and wonderfully paced. It just wasn’t entirely my Hunger Games.
I didn’t go into Allegiant completely blind as I had seen a few spoiler free reviews saying that the ending wasn’t really what they had expected. However, I didn’t expect the finale to be both sad and uplifting. Looking back I can understand why Veronica Roth chose to end the series without Tris and Four together forever. First, with the type of revolution/revolt that the pro-GD individuals created in the Bureau happy endings were no guarantee. Tris made a choice based on who she was fundamentally, and it kept the book from devolving into yet another YA story where teenagers meet their true love for all time at an age where they’re rapidly changing and growing (can you tell I hate the trope of meeting your soul mate in high school?). Second, the ending is actually talking about rebuilding and hope. Seeing the characters actively rebuilding their lives in the epilogue and moving on from the tragedies of the revolution felt more real to me than if everyone had magically been okay.
No, it’s not the ending that I had anticipated, but I can respect it. It fits the story that Roth was ultimately trying to tell through the factions and Tris/Four’s romance. Sometimes to move forward we have to make sacrifices, and we can build something stronger through healing.