Catching Fire released at 8pm yesterday, an odd time for a midnight release. Honestly, I never looked into why the release was moved up, though it likely had something to do with the school attendance of the target audience. And good! It is much easier to go see a release and leave at a reasonable hour.

Pleasantries aside, I have to give Catching Fire two enthusiastic thumbs up and a smile. Every actor from the first film really seemed to understand and develop their character much more fully, giving texture to the screen that would otherwise be left in the pages of the book.

In particular, Josh Hutcherson plumbed the depths of Peeta’s trials and gave a performance that offers a stirring case for Katniss’ emotional battle between the two men in her life. Frankly, I always thought Gale was a better fit for Katniss, minus the last third of Mockingjay. Catching Fire really balances on the fence. Gale’s passion for justice is unmistakeable and admirable. Peeta’s sensitivity to life is stunning.

Snow is menacing as ever, Haymitch and Effie bicker and brood, Caesar Flickerman is freakish in the extreme; every single character was brought into the light. The new characters were wonderful as well, in particular Johanna Mason who hides her true nature under many layers, until actually in the 75th Hunger Games arena.

Something must be said for Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen. In the first movie, she took a bold step in portraying Katniss properly, as written in the books; reserved, private, paralyzed away from living life by the horrors that are foisted upon it by the Capitol. I know a lot of people thought it was just a bad performance, as though Lawrence failed by not offering the usual emotional openness. I thought it was gutsy and perfectly done. Minimalism done right is daring and genius, and it takes talent.

This time around, Katniss is forced into situations where her emotional security is compromised by circumstance. Thus, she is cornered into the open, where she lashes out or acts on impulse. Reserved and fierce and vulnerable. It’s a crazy role to try to act, especially when Katniss is placed into very different events. Jennifer Lawrence is stupendous!

Catching Fire is true to the book, more so than Hunger Games was, which really says all you need to know. I had wondered how they were going to do the arena. It was impressive! You’ll have to see it, because any description just wouldn’t cut it. Go see Catching Fire!

And now, for a few comments relating to my earlier article (which is getting a lot of hits again. It seems that many people are intrigued by the sociological questions posed in The Hunger Games). I know that many people will say that Panem is a perfect illustration of the end result of capitalism, that the capitalists will have all property and everyone else will be slaves. I know this because some of the people in the movies have insisted on this view.

It’s absurd.

Slavery is a governing relationship. In Panem, people who work are paid by the state. The state takes everything they produce and gives them a pittance. The state rules how much they can have besides (in Catching Fire, the Peacekeepers destroy all contraband and black markets). This is an impressive description of socialism, because in socialism, the state redirects wealth how it sees fit effectively owning the right to do so. Communism is an explicit version of socialism.

Capitalism is when people are free to pursue their own ends, keep what they earn for themselves, make contracts with who they want. In capitalism, both parties making a deal are better off, otherwise the deal doesn’t get made. This is called the Invisible Hand, which forces people to help their fellow man, even if they don’t want to. If you want to get richer, find something that will make your fellow man better off and show how it is worth his while to pay you for it.

Not only that, the state runs a massive propaganda campaign to brainwash people that things are wonderful under its autocracy. Awfully like 1984, I must say.

And also, how exactly would there be the possibility of the downtrodden to rise up and destroy the Capitol of Panem, since Panem has seen fit to enact stringent gun control laws, even outlawing the ownership of bows and arrows, while they send around armed and armored guards to oppress the masses.

I reiterate; Panem is a powerful example of socialism. Being that this is a pop culture phenomenon, I think it behooves us to offer this concept to those young readers who may never have been presented with a balanced view of the 20th century, who may not know about the horrific atrocities actually committed in the name of equality, going all the way back to the French Revolution. The youth have a right to know about these things, and this is a perfect way to breach the topic, and bring a little bit of the Hunger Games into history to help get kids interested in knowing that opinions matter, elections have consequences, and the philosophy we employ in our lives can make all the difference between goodness and justice against evil and oppression.

Go see this movie.