With rebellion smoldering just beneath the surface and threatening to erupt into full-blown revolution, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself becoming a symbol of hope and inspiration to her people when she and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are forced to become Tributes in the 75th Hunger Games and meet death in the arena for a second time.
Death is the strongest theme in this film. While the original “Hunger Games” focused primarily on death in the Hunger Games arena, in “Catching Fire”, seems to encompass a far more universal victim. The sinister and totalitarian leader of Panem, President Snow, wields mortality like a white-hot sword, ready to extinguish the flame of hope that is represented by any who would dare rise to oppose him. He uses death as a means of intimidation and punishment, but in truth, his fear of being overthrown is his true weakness. While the essence of the first Hunger Games revolved around the Tributes being killed by each other, this time, the carnage stems less from the individual Tributes and more from the environment of the arena, itself, with each new danger proving to be more deadly than the last.
While Katniss is a strong woman who is willing to sacrifice everything for the people that she loves, what makes Katniss a truly worthy character is that she is also human. While Katniss possesses a deep inner strength which has allowed her to survive, the physical and emotional scars which are lingering reminders of the agony she endured in the arena have transformed her. While on the outside, she represents a symbol of strength and courage, on the inside, the heavy burden of pain she bears has left her heart fragile. Her fragility intensifies when President Snow uses his power to make her witness the suffering of the people she loves the most.
The love which binds Katniss with Peeta and Gale is also an essential thread in her character. She loves both men very deeply, but her love for each of them is unique. Her love for Peeta began as a clever distraction to win them favor in the first Hunger Games, but it is more than just a brilliant ruse that defines their love. Peeta is the only one (aside from their crusty mentor, Haymitch) who truly understands the pain that Katniss has endured because he has experienced the same pain and thus he is the only one who can truly comfort her. His feelings for her are genuine because even as strangers, he has always been there to protect her. While Peeta was willing to play the part of the star struck lover in the arena, Peeta is conflicted because his love for Katniss comes from his heart, and he wants their love to be real. In turn, when they are forced to return to the arena, Katniss is willing to sacrifice her own life in order to save Peeta.
The love between Katniss and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is forged from the connection they created when their fathers died. While their friendship remains intact after Katniss returns from the Hunger Games, the essence of what defines their friendship has shifted. While she still loves Gale, her experience in the Hunger Games has left Katniss physically and emotionally scarred, and she can’t share this pain with Gale because, unlike Peeta, he does not understand it. Despite being torn between her love for Peeta and her feelings for Gale, Katniss shows she is willing to sacrifice her own life to protect Gale when he is suffering from cruel punishment of the Peacekeepers.