Buttercup is still a presence in Catching Fire, thankfully.
In the book, Katniss has been out hunting alone, taking care of Gale’s traps now that he’s in the mines and she’s a Victor. She uses the old house, that she used to live in with Prim and her mother, to change her clothes – and Buttercup turns up, wailing, at the old place when she’s there. Buttercup is the first being Katniss meets in the book of Catching Fire. To me, the subtext is crystal clear – Katniss and Buttercup are strongly linked together. Him being the first, and him being the only other one who uses the old house, again mark him out as being special in the book:
“He dislikes the new house almost as much as I do and always leaves it when my sister’s at school. We’ve never been particularly fond of each other, but now we have this new bond. I let him in, feed him a chunk of beaver fat, and even rub him between the ears for a bit.”
Even though she tells him he’s hideous, again, there’s obviously an affectionate bond between them. But Katniss doesn’t let herself bond with anyone other than Prim, her mother and Gale, so she sees Buttercup as connecting to Prim and Prim alone. Katniss has focussed on survival, and only survival, since she was eleven years old.
In the film, of course, Katniss has already met Gale out hunting and they’ve talked, agonisingly, about the Victory Tour. So she just walks by Buttercup as he’s sitting on an unused fountain in the Victor’s Village, both of them looking very unhappy and grumpy.
That’s the only time we see Buttercup in Catching Fire (apart from a couple of times when Prim can be seen in the background, holding him, supporting the connection betweeen Prim and Buttercup too). Logically, that’s because Katniss is taken from District 12 so soon by the forces of the Capitol – and the subtext reinforces that: because Katniss has once again become a pawn for the forces of the Capitol and of District 13, the part of her that’s not like Buttercup is the only part of her that belongs in the film.
They’ve got the colour of the cat right this time – it’s huge, but still not scruffy, in fact it’s really beautiful. It definitely manages to look grumpy and dissatisfied sitting on the fountain. I bet Buttercup has been hunting too, or trying to.
Apparently Buttercup was played by two cats in this film and both Mockingjay films: one was good at sitting and being held, the other at scampering around. And of course in this film, Buttercup is the colour he’s supposed to be – on the DVD extras, there’s a not-so-jokey comment that the assistant who got the cat’s colour wrong in the first film had some death threats, poor thing. It’s very clear that fans really, really disapproved of a black and white Buttercup.
Personally, I approve of any film that has a cat as a character … though I too am glad that Buttercup is the right colour.
Long Live Buttercup.