In the second installment of the Hunger Games series (is that a trilogy or a quadrilogy?), Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself in a different predicament than in the first film when she entered the Games in place of her younger sister. Now, it’s a political battle she wages parallel to the blood-and-arrows one; she’s a hero, a role model, who others are looking to, and she finds herself neck deep in a revolution.
Representing malevolent evil, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) threatens Katniss if she won’t fake her relationship with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), deny her love for Gale (Liam Hemsworth), and help the Capitol put down the rebellions popping up in the Districts. He’s joined by the ambitious new Gamesmaker, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and they roll out a plan to squelch Katniss’ revolutionary fire once and for awhile, sending past victors back into the Hunger Games.
Having blown through Suzanne Collins’ trilogy in less than a week before The Hunger Games hit theaters, I’m not surprised by anything that plays out here. But that doesn’t mean it’s still not moving, powerful, and even disturbing. In 2012, I couldn’t help but see parallels in Katniss to Jesus Christ, who “stepped forward for me when my number was called,” and during Lent, that feeling is reinforced in Catching Fire.
From the very beginning, I couldn’t help but see President Snow and Heavensbee’s plotting like the Pharisees planning in the background to take Jesus down. “She should die but in the right way,” Heavensbee says, “at the right time… Katniss is a symbol, a Mockingjay. They think she’s one of them but we need to show that she’s one of us. We need to tear down the image, and let the people do the rest. Sell fear, more fear.”
Isn’t that how Jesus died? He went from being public hero, healer, teacher, and welcomed Messiah to being crucified on a Friday as the people chanted for his demise. Somehow, the Pharisees captured the people’s attention and let the people take down Jesus- they’re technically the ones who voted Jesus dead over the terrorist Barabbas (Matthew 27:11-20), not the Pharisees who plotted for years to have him die, a threat to their religious-political power.
A bigger stretch for some might be the indecision that Katniss shares with Gale, who reminds her that she is giving people hope. Even Snow recognizes that “fear doesn’t work as long as they have hope,” but there’s a Last Temptation of Christ moment where Katniss seems ready to run and save her family versus following through with her new found responsibility. Did Jesus really second guess the cross? We know he prayed that if it be God’s will that it would pass, but if he was really human, he must’ve wanted to avoid the painful death he experienced. And yet, maybe that’s the difference between Christ and a Christ figure: Jesus knew he could go to God in prayer, but we too often seem to think we have to ‘work things out’ on our own.
While Katniss doesn’t always ‘get the worst of it,’ in the way that Gale or Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) do, for their parts in the revolution, she still serves as the figurehead of the movement. Her deviation from the Christ story is that Jesus bore the brunt of it, taking our sins upon himself to the cross, and that he seems to understand that there is no other option. When the unnamed contestant dies for Peeta, he shakes his head, incredulous and grateful: “she sacrificed herself for me.” Katniss can’t believe it, because “it doesn’t make sense.” It’s just one more time that Collins’ story works in the truth about friendship and self-sacrifice.
Of course, the film isn’t all chit-chat, the action dominating after the slow burn of political machinations and the dance Katniss must experience with the other victors who see the whole predicament as her fault. It’s quite exciting, but it leaves us feeling a bit like Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, hanging on emotionally by a thread. We still don’t really see hope, because it seems that Katniss has risked too much, lost too much, and the Capitol still controls all.
We can sometimes feel like that, in Lent, stuck between the feelings of Good Friday and the jubilee of Easter morning. We’re supposed to evaluate ourselves, seek God more fully, and understand better what it means to follow God’s will in our lives. But we fight, more often than not, the tougher battle of Katniss’, the one against ideas, and systems, politics and manipulations. It’s in those moments that we can find God whispering support, showing grace, and providing healing. It’s then that we know we are not alone in the Games.
This cliffhanger will ultimately be nothing compared to watching them split out Mockingjay into two parts. But with Katniss and her growing revolution, it will be worth the wait.