- Catching Fire highlights the theme of PTSD in a powerful way, showcasing the lasting effects of trauma on characters like Katniss and Peeta.
- Johanna’s elevator scene provides a rare moment of levity in the intense Hunger Games series, but filming it was challenging due to Jennifer Lawrence’s absence.
- Johanna’s character endures significant pain and torture throughout the series, making her comedic scene in Catching Fire a brief respite from her emotional journey.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire introduced several new characters, including the outspoken Johanna Mason (Jena Malone). One of her most notable scenes is stripping down in an elevator, a scene that — according to the actor — was even funnier in retrospect.
Considered the best Hunger Games installment, Catching Fire puts a fine point on the theme of PTSD. Even after Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) make it out of the games intact, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) takes their betrayal personally. To punish them, volunteers are reaped from the existing pool of Victors in the Quarter Quell. Katniss and Peeta return to the arena alongside Johanna, who won the games before the books. Katniss gets a full look at her future ally when Johanna steps into the elevator and tears herself out of the outfit her stylist made her wear.
Katniss’ expression makes the scene one of the few moments of lightness in the Hunger Games film series. But movie magic made the scene even more ridiculous when the actors were filming on the day. “The scenes that are fun are never fun to do, you know? Jen [Lawrence] was sick that day, and so I ended up doing it without Jen, so there wasn’t a lot of people in the elevator,” Malone told Variety.
Through clever cutting, viewers might think Malone and Lawrence filmed that scene together. But with their Hunger Games scenes shot on different days, the actors couldn’t benefit from playing off each other’s expressions. This revelation makes the humor of the scene even more impressive and convincing. This had the added benefit of allowing Malone more privacy for the shot. The film maintains a PG-13 rating, so there was nothing excessively mature about it, but there is still a level of vulnerability required for these sequences.
Though Katniss carries the film and just about every character has their respective levels of trauma, Johanna had it about as bad as you can get. With the minimal screen time that Malone has in the series of films, she is in constant pain. After the events of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Johanna is one of the few kidnapped along with Peeta. The Capitol takes them as prisoners and subjects them to physical and mental torture.
The next time viewers see the axe-wielding Victor, she is shaved and emaciated from starvation. Hutcherson, the star of the box office hit Five Night at Freddy’s, portrays the harrowing brainwashing that turns Peeta against the person he loves, while Johanna has to contend with being left behind for the sake of saving Katniss. Malone has some of the most difficult emotional scenes in the film with little reprieve. At least for a short moment in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Johanna could have a moment of comedy.
The Hunger Games trilogy is streaming on Peacock.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
- Release Date
- November 17, 2023
- Francis Lawrence
- Rachel Zegler, Hunter Schafer, Tom Blyth, Peter Dinklage, Viola Davis, Jason Schwartzman, Josh Andrés Rivera
- 157 Minutes
- The Hunger Games