Back when it was a book, Catching Fire was the story of Katniss Everdeen’s ongoing struggles against the totalitarian crusty-old-dean repressive government of the Capitol. But now Catching Fire is a movie – a movie you and all your cousins will probably see – and the plot has changed a little bit. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is most clearly the story of Jennifer Lawrence, acclaimed actress and Dumb & Dumber fangirl, and her interactions with one of the most overqualified supporting casts this side of Harry Potter. The movie’s episodic structure makes it feel a bit like a parade, with each actor getting their chance in the spotlight. (The spotlight, in this case, is the heavenly beam of healing light which shines out of Jennifer Lawrence’s eyes.)
But what non-J-Law human fares the best in Catching Fire? Who most personifies to the book’s version of their character? Who manages to put a distinctive new spin on a beloved character? And who can’t quite live up to their literary inspiration? After seeing Catching Fire, the EW.com Club for Overthinking Serious Hunger Games Thoughts decided to rank the supporting characters in Catching Fire. Spoilers follow!
1. Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman
In his second go-round as the grinning talk show host from a screamingly funny corner of hell, Tucci gives more of everything. He’s more over-the-top. His clothes are more glam-rock crazy. The bigger budget means there’s more scenery for him to chew. But Tucci also adds some subtle layers to his Dystopian Seacrest: In the interviews with the returning tributes, he lets you see the barely repressed terror lingering underneath Flickerman’s grin. Every line kills. Every reaction shot kills. Sometimes he has three reactions in a single reaction shot.
2. Jena Malone as Johanna Mason
Who knew? The early-millenial indie refugee seemed like an all-the-way wrong fit for the full-crazy she-warrior Johanna. But Malone owns the screen, whether she’s introducing herself with a mark-my-territory elevator stripshow or throwing out a couple funny-scary bleeped F-bombs. Late in the movie, Johanna gets the line of the movie: “There’s no one left I love.” At moments like that, Malone feels beamed in from another, tougher, hard-R action movie.
3. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee
Philip Seymour Hoffman appears to be wearing pajamas. He mumbles half his dialogue. While the rest of the cast goes big – big accents, big clothes – he goes casual. As the Head Gamemaker, he seems very aware that he’s probably going to die, and he’s rather amused by that prospect. His introduction dance scene with Katniss is electric. His weary cynicism transforms Catching Fire into a dark comedy – and it helps to sell the shock of the final twist.
4. Lynn Cohen as Mags
Never talks. Looks like everyone’s fairy godmother. Sacrifices herself. Earns biggest tears in the movie.
5. Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair
Not quite the golden-god merman described in the book, Claflin’s Finnick is a wry presence outside of the Arena. Then the Quarter Quell starts, and he reveals himself as a game, pleasantly no-nonsense action hero. In scenes with Katniss, gives good can-I-really-trust-you friend-chemistry.
6. Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket
Like Tucci, Banks goes even more over-the-top in her second film. Like Tucci, Banks also manages to find some deeper reserves in her character. Part of what makes Catching Fire so exciting is how it manages to capture, very concretely, what it looks like when people start to have a social consciousness – when they begin to question everything they’ve ever known. Banks captures that in microcosm, struggling to connect on a deeper level with the people her government has enslaved. When she calls Katniss and Peeta “my victors,” you can hear how much she loves them – and you can also hear the possessiveness of a human being who still can’t quite grasp the evil she helps to propagate.
7. Donald Sutherland as President Snow
You could watch Sutherland and Hoffman sit at a table for hours. When they plot the deaths of teenagers, it’s scary and funny all at once. The best of President Snow is yet to come in the Mockingjay films, but Sutherland still does a great sneering villain, one part Emperor Palpatine and one part Lithgow-in-Footloose.
8. Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy
Nobody does hilarious drunken wounded heroism like Woody Harrelson does hilarious drunken wounded heroism. Haymitch has less of an arc in Catching Fire than in the first installment, but Harrelson can make you laugh. And when he promises Katniss he’ll save Peeta – a promise he can’t keep, over and over again – he breaks your heart.
9. Patrick St. Esprit as Romulus Thread
“Jesus Christ, who the hell was that guy?” is probably what you were saying after St. Esprit’s showcase scene. Essentially a one-scene wonder, Thread walks onscreen, takes over District 12, and burns half the place to the ground. The most tense scene in the movie is just Thread and Katniss staring each other down. St. Esprit’s a journeyman actor who’s been on pretty much every TV show; in Catching Fire, he’s the stormtrooper to end all stormtroopers.
10. Jeffrey Wright as Beetee
Beetee was nothing in the book, really. Wright makes him into a series of delicate, careful motions. Fingers adjusting glasses. Eyes darting up to hidden force fields. That voice, both once annoyed and terrified. Between this and Boardwalk Empire, there’s an argument to be made that Jeffrey Wright should take supporting roles in every movie franchise and TV show.
11. District 11, Especially That Old Guy
The anti-establishment credo of Hunger Games never gets more provocative than in the first stop on the Victory Tour, when Katniss faces the huddled masses of the agricultural district and watches them deliver a three-finger salute. That salute is led by an old man – who is immediately dispatched by brutal Capitol justice. It’s a scene that makes your heart hurt, and then crushes your heart completely.
12. Blond Man and Blonde Woman as Gloss and Cashmere
Barely even characters, but the brother-and-sister Career duo make an impression with little screen time. We can all agree that they definitely gave off a Lannister twincest vibe, right?
13. Adorable Little Girl as President Snow’s Katniss-Fangirl Granddaughter
When President Snow isn’t hangin’ out with his pal Plutarch, he’s probably chillin’ with his adorable little granddaughter. Problem: Li’l Snow has a serious Katniss fixation. Not even a character in the book, she gets some laughs in the movie, most of them hair-related.
14. Amanda Plummer as Wiress
Without much to do besides say “Tick-Tock” and look freaked out, Plummer makes you feel for the District 3 tribute. Her performance gets even better if you try to imagine that Wiress is Honey Bunny from Pulp Fiction with post-apocalyptic PTSD.
15. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark
Opinions vary on the Hutcherson problem. Some people think it’s a matter of miscasting. Other people think Peeta was always a little boring. The hair’s better this time, and Hutcherson exudes spry confidence whenever Peeta plays to the cameras. But otherwise there’s no sizzle.
16. Fake Jason Statham and Pointy Teeth as Brutus and Enobaria
17. Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne
Hemsworth gets a bit more to do in this movie, and somehow triumphs over basic physical reality by doing less with more.
18. Toby Jones as Claudius Templesmith
Essentially absent from the movie but for a brief appearance during the early chariot rides. One wonders if some of his scenes were cut to make way for new-for-the-movie scenes starring Plutarch Heavensbee, leading Jones to the dark corner of his basement where he throws darts at pictures of Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote.
19. Willow Shields as Primrose Everdeen
Two movies in and still nothing to do.
20. Lenny Kravitz as Cinna
Listen, we all love Cinna. And we all love Lenny Kravitz. But Kravitz’s dreamy-art-student take on Cinna doesn’t quite capture what made Katniss’ stylist such a fan-favorite in the books. Noteworthy that, as with Gale, Cinna’s most dramatic scene comes when he gets beaten up.
21. The Morphlings
It’s kinda sad when that one Tribute dies, I guess. Whatever her name is.
22. Paula Malcomson as Mrs. Everdeen
A well-deserved paycheck for a talented actress, but gyeesh, let her speak, maybe?