Catching Fire, the vastly superior second installment of the Hunger Games saga, has set a record for November earnings, pulling in around $161.1 million over its opening weekend. That success has Hunger Games fans tingling with joy, so much joy, in fact, that some of them have started comparing Catching Fire to another awesome sequel about evil old dudes, piggyback rides, and a protagonist trapped in the clutches of destiny. No, not Beethoven's 2nd (but good guess) — The Empire Strikes Back.
By "some Hunger Games fans," we really just mean this one article on Business Insider. Oh, and this one from MTV. If you don't know what happens over the course of Catching Fire because you a) can't read, b) don't like to read, c) wouldn't be caught dead reading because you're not a nerd, d) haven't mustered the energy to change out of your Friday pajamas and go to the movies, then now is the time to stop reading if you don't want the whole spectacle of Katniss meeting Yoda in the Hunger Games arena spoiled for you (that was a trick — but seriously, now is the time to look away).
The case for Catching Fire being like The Empire Strikes Back isn't particularly insightful — the Capitol militants look like Storm Troopers (sort of), President Snow is an evil WHITE dude wearing a BLACK cape JUST LIKE Darth Vader, Plutarch Heavensbee is an opportunistic bureaucrat who's really a good guy deep down just like Lando Calrissian, and Peeta gets captured at the end just like Han Solo, only not at all like Han Solo because Peeta is stupid. If the two movies mirror each other in tone and pacing, it's only because they both have the advantage of being middle movies in a trilogy, free from the storytelling burdens of either introducing unfamiliar characters or offering a satisfying resolution.
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There are two ways to take such a comparison, one positive, the other negative: Catching Fire is on par with the most critically adored installment of the greatest movie franchise ever, or Catching Fire just completely ripped off the best Star Wars movie. Neither of these critiques is really fair, but when a movie opens as big as Catching Fire has, it's going to get picked over, analyzed, compared, criticized, and praised until its moment passes. To say that Catching Fire must be taken on its own terms is obviously bullshit — no movie can or should be viewed in a movie vacuum — but when people start drawing parallels between Finnick giving Mags a piggyback ride through the woods and Luke giving Yoda a piggyback ride through the swamp, it might be a signal that we're looking for evidence that doesn't exist.