The Hunger Games: Catching Fire begins after Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) win the 74th annual Hunger Games. They have returned home to District 12 to spend time with family and friends, including Katniss’s boyfriend, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). Unfortunately, Katniss and Peeta’s time at home is cut short. They’re forced to go on a victory tour of Panem’s districts, pretending they’re in a passionate relationship.
The tour doesn’t go as planned. Panem’s downtrodden masses see Katniss and Peeta’s victory at the 74th Hunger Games as a sign of hope, and this sows seeds of rebellion. Fearing an uprising by the masses, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) decides to put an end to hope by doing away with Katniss, Peeta and all previous Hunger Games champions.
Snow introduces the Quarter Quell Hunger Games, orchestrated by games master Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). In the Quarter Quell Hunger Games, Hunger Games victors from the past, including Katniss and Peeta, once again compete in an environmentally controlled killing arena.
Luckily for Katniss and Peeta, their Hunger Games mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) has managed to sway several contestants to their side. The unexpected result of teaming Katniss and Peeta with new allies sets the scene for the final instalment in the Hunger Games trilogy.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has some intense sequences of violence with some graphic death scenes, blood, gore and injury. For example:
- One scene shows helmeted soldiers (referred to as peace keepers) dressed in white armour push through a crowd of onlookers and forcefully drag an old man out of the crowd. They force the old man to his knees, and a soldier points a handgun at his head. We hear the trigger being pulled and the sound of the gunshot, but the actual killing happens off screen. A short time later four soldiers carry the body away.
- A couple of scenes show crowds of civilians fighting off soldiers who shoot and kill people at random. One soldier uses a sword to cut down a civilian. Soldiers ransack homes and throw people’s belongings into the street, before torching them with flamethrowers.
- Soldiers brutally beat, kick and punch a defenceless man in front of Katniss. She can’t intervene and cries out in distress.
- During a short scene showing the initial stage of the Hunger Games contest, contestants are shot in the legs and chest with arrows, hacked in the chest with a trident and an axe, and pulled underwater and drowned (no images of blood and gore). In a later scene a contestant is shot in the chest with an arrow, another is killed in a sword and knife fight, and yet another has her throat cut (the actual act happens off screen).
- In one scene during the Hunger Games contest, Peeta is hurled backwards through the air when he encounters a force field. He is dead when he hits the ground but is resuscitated by another contestant.
- A female contestant strikes another contestant over the back of the head with a rock and then cuts her throat and arm with a knife. Blood covers the injured contestant’s throat and arm.
- A young man stripped naked to the waist is tied to a pole and flogged by a soldier wielding a whip. The young man screams out in pain as he is whipped and deep bloody welts cut appear on his back. Blood spatters the soldier’s face, back and chest. When a young woman intervenes, the soldier strikes her across the face and then points a gun at her head. In a later scene the whipped man lies on his stomach on a table with his back covered in bloody wounds. Blood drips onto the floor.
- In one chaotic scene, dozens of frenzied, snarling baboons attack the Hunger Games contestants. The baboons look scary and threatening. They have mouths full of large fangs and large muscular bodies. A contestant kills a baboon with a trident. A baboon attacks and bites the neck of a fleeing contestant, who dies from the injuries. Another contestant kills a baboon by holding it underwater until it drowns.
- Katniss is told that her home, District 12, along with its inhabitants, no longer exists. It has been completely destroyed by fire bombs.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has some scenes that would scare or disturb children under eight years. For example:
- One scene shows images of a woman with a mouth full of sharp pointed teeth. We hear that she has had her teeth filed into fangs so that she can rip out the throats of her victims.
- A poisonous fog attacks Hunger Games contestants, chasing them through the jungle. Contact with the fog causes contestants to immediately develop large ugly, painful boil-like blisters on their hands, arms, necks and faces. They writhe and scream out in pain. An elderly contestant sacrifices herself by deliberately walking into the fog.
Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the violent and disturbing scenes described above.
Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by the violent and disturbing scenes described above.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has infrequent low-level sexual references and innuendo. For example:
- Katniss and Gale talk about how Katniss had to pretend to be romantically involved with Peeta to survive the first Hunger Games.
- A man describes Katniss and Peeta as ‘the lethal lovers from District 12’.
- Someone refers to one of the male Hunger Games contestants being a prostitute.
- A female contestant asks Peeta, ‘What do you think now that the whole world wants to sleep with you?’
- In one scene Katniss implies that she is pregnant to Peeta.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire shows some use of substances. For example:
- A young girl uses a syringe containing an unknown substance to inject a man in the back after the man has been badly whipped.
- A man drinks alcohol and acts drunk in several scenes. One scene shows the man, completely drunk, face down on a table. The man seems to be an alcoholic.
- While at a party, someone tells Katniss that glasses containing a pink drink are to make you vomit so that you can go on eating more food.
- Katniss takes a bottle with alcohol from a man and drinks from it.
- Someone talks about some of the Hunger Games contestants being addicted to drugs. The contestants seem to have dilated pupils.
Nudity and sexual activity
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has some partial nudity and low-level sexual activity. For example:
- Katniss and Peeta and Katniss and Gale kiss and hug passionately.
- Several scenes show Peeta and Katniss (fully clothed) lying in bed together.
- Katniss wears dresses with low-cut tops.
- One scene shows Peeta and Katniss standing together in a lift. A girl enters the lift and asks Peeta to unzip the back of her dress. She removes the dress to stand naked in front of Peeta (only the girl’s naked shoulders are shown). Then she turns around and leaves the lift.
There is no product placement of concern in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, but associated merchandise is being marketed to young children.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has some coarse language.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is an action adventure targeting an older adolescent audience as well as fans of The Hunger Games novels.
Catching Fire is a sequel to the first The Hunger Games movie and has a similar storyline. The movie’s two heroes inspire the masses to rebel while being forced to compete in a fight to the death.
As with the previous movie, violence and disturbing themes and scenes make the movie unsuitable for tweens and younger teenagers who might have read the books or who are attracted by the movie’s marketing.
These are the main messages from this movie:
- Know who your enemies are.
- Hope is powerful and can lead people to achieve great things.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include courage and self-sacrifice.
If you have older children, this movie could also give you the chance to talk with them about totalitarian governments and their effects on citizens.