1) Making the Capitolists [sic] people, and not just cartoons. They had depth, and I loved it.
2) Elizabeth Banks' heartbroken, but still sassy, Effie Trinket.
3) Making Cinna’s last appearance truly brutal. We need to mourn him like Katniss does.
4) The arena being almost as awesome as it is in my head.
5) Peeta crying “It’s not real!” when Katniss hears the Jabberjays imitate Prim.
6) Jena Malone. ‘Nuff said.
7) The moment in the elevator when Johanna Mason strips. The character of Katniss disappears and we see Jennifer Lawrence, in all her crazy, awkward glory, making insane faces. It’s delightful.
8) No more handheld cameras in the woods! I can see what's going on: Hallelujah!
I saw it with a mixed bag of people: some were as obsessed with the series as I am, and some had no knowledge of the books, only knowing the story from the first film. Everyone thought it was fabulous. Any film that can please both the die-hards and the newbies is impressive. For that film to be a sequel is pretty spectacular. Well done.
Caveat: If, O Movie Gods, you spend Part I of Mockingjay building the love triangle, trying to force a Twilight-y Team Peeta/Gale thing to happen, I reserve the right to retroactively hate you. I'm already cranky that you're splitting the last book into two movies. Just a heads-up.
On a related note, let’s talk about the soundtrack. The soundtrack for the first Hunger Games film is total, absolute genius. For those of you who have not been listening to it in
rotation for a year, let me explain. The original soundtrack was produced by T-Bone Burnett and only includes a few songs featured in the film. The complete name of the soundtrack is “The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond” and the point of the album is not to have songs that are in the movie, but songs that can come from the movie. Each musical artist was asked to imagine District 12 music 300 years in the future: it birthed neo-Appalachian folk-rock. These are not words that describe Kid Cudi (“The Ruler and the Killer”), Arcade Fire (“Abraham’s Daughter”), or Maroon 5 (“Come Away to the Water”), but all those artists appear on the soundtrack. And it’s AMAZING. Some of it is a little too folksy, but as a whole, it’s awesome! I can (and do) listen to this album All. The. Time.
Then the Catching Fire soundtrack came out. And I was SO EXCITED. (sigh)
Lorde’s “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is the standout here. It’s ridiculously awesome. And Patti Smith’s “Capitol Letter” is great, if a little heavy-handed on the lyrics. But Coldplay? Christina Aguilera? No, no, no. Someone figured out that the Catching Fire soundtrack was gonna make a boatload of money, and they decided to cash in. And the soundtrack is less cohesive for it.
The sequel doesn’t even need to sound just like the first soundtrack! Feel free to switch it up. Give us more music from the Capitol, if you want! More awesome post-apocalyptic music like “The Ruler & The Killer” and “Abraham’s Daughter” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Give us weird neo-techno music from District 3. But not a mishmash of capitalist—not Capitolist—crap. Can we ditch the new producer (Alexandra Patsavas) and bring back T-Bone Burnett, please? I’ll start a write-in campaign.
Long story short: Buy the first CD. It rocks. As far as the second CD, just grab Lorde’s “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” on i-Tunes. Your twisted little Capitolist heart needs to sing along.