“Let the 75th Annual Hunger Games begin!”
With action packed scenes and a deepening plot line, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, did justice to the book series and the first film. For the first time ever, the sequel is actually better than the original.
The second adaption from Suzanne Collins’ award winning trilogy, Catching Fire continues where the first film left off, with victors Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson, The Kids Are All Right) displaying their love to the districts and the Capitol. When the districts don’t believe their love story, they use Katniss as a symbol of the rebellion. Fearing the victors’ power to fuel the fire, President Snow (Donald Sutherland, Pride and Prejudice) announces the 75th Annual Hunger Games: a fight to the death between previous victors from all 12 districts.
Director Francis Lawrence (Water for Elephants) expanded on Collins’ original work and created a part of Panem that viewers have never seen. With scenes in the Victor’s Village and the new Arena, Lawrence’s own visual spin on the country will make viewers feel like a part of that world. He even includes perspectives from President Snow and Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Moneyball), which give a more in-depth look into the motives and viewpoints of the Capitol. Lawrence has also signed on to direct Mockingjay Part 1.
Jennifer Lawrence is flawless as Katniss, once again. She brings back both sides of Katniss that the audience has seen before. From the determined and tough side that was a result of growing up in District 12 to the sensitive and sweet side that allows her to be loved by the Capitol citizens and try to protect Peeta in the Games.
Josh Hutcherson does a great job portraying Peeta. His character’s growth from just Katniss’ on-screen lover to her companion off-screen is close to perfect. Peeta shows his affection for Katniss (and Lawrence) in almost every scene, but has become more of a competitor than he was in the first film. Peeta goes all out to try to stop the Games from happening this year and to save his and Katniss’ life.
New characters Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin, Snow White and the Huntsman) and Johanna Mason (Jena Malone, Pride and Prejudice) both play an important role in this movie. Finnick and Johanna were both strong allies to Katniss and Peeta which allowed all of them to advance together throughout the Games.
The movie stays true to the book in many ways. Even without Collins writing the screenplay, like she did for The Hunger Games, Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt represent her work well. They include multiple word-for-word scenes and leave out only a few parts, none of which are vital to the plot line. The only thing that the movie struggles with was timing at the beginning. The first 30 minutes of the film seem to rush through the first quarter of the book.
Overall, this movie is well-worth the trip to the theater, and to the Capitol. Catching Fire is an improvement over the first movie, which is hard to accomplish and will lead perfectly into the third. For dedicated fans and skeptics of the trilogy, this is definitely a movie worth catching.
3.5 stars out of 4. MPAA Rating PG-13. Running Time 146 minutes.