The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Movie Review
“WELCOME TO THE 75TH HUNGER GAMES!” As Stanley Tucci impeccably blasts out this phrase as the flamboyant emcee Caesar Flickerman, my lips grin widely and my heart leaps with excitement. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE is the sequel to the wildly popular THE HUNGER GAMES from last year and the second of three books from author Suzanne Collins. If you are anything like me, you have eagerly been anticipating this film since the last one. Well I can now safely say, CATCHING FIRE does not disappoint.
After winning the 74th Hunger Games in defiant fashion, the girl on fire Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and the always honorable and sweet Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) have given hope to the other districts and are now targets of President Snow and the Capitol. Things are different in the districts, there are whispers of an uprising, people are no longer accepting their persecutions. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is doing his best to put a stop to it by publicly beating and killing any who resists or even have a perceived disobedient attitude. A new head Gamemaker, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), has made this year’s games, known as the Quarter Quell, a bit different by reaping past winners of the game to compete against each other. With a colorful cast of new characters that are never quite as they seem, Katniss and Peeta must figure out who they can trust as allies and remember who the real enemy is.
Clearly, a story involving kids who are forced into a game in which they must fight to the death, is dealing with some very dark, mature themes. The Hunger Games series is unique in that it not only shows the gruesome nature of the events but also tackles the outside viewership angle where the societal thirst for sensationalism in violence, reality television and tabloid gossip is at an overwhelming height. What blood bath would be complete without a glamorous red carpet event to bring it all together beforehand? By balancing the emotional scenes with the action, Director Francis Lawrence (I AM LEGEND) along with screenwriters Simon Beaufoy (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) and Michael Arndt (TOY STORY 3) were able to skillfully blend the tension with the humor. Only in a couple of places does the direction play up a scene a bit too dramatically, but those moments are few and fleeting.
Katniss is a strong female heroine like none we’ve seen before. Leaps and bounds more interesting than that Bella from TWILIGHT (although that’s not hard to do), Katniss is involved in a love triangle where her feelings are very much secondary. Instead of pining for two guys, she’s sort of indifferent. Don’t get me wrong, she clearly cares for both Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) in different ways, but she is more focused on what’s important, survival and keeping those closest to her safe. Aiding in her likability are her flaws. Katniss has trouble seeing the bigger picture, always wanting to help those around her but not realizing the overall impact her actions will have. Just as her character is inspiration for others within the film, so is her character outside the film, giving the female gender the deserved respect it rarely receives.
Jennifer Lawrence is once again phenomenal as the arrow wielding Katniss, who I suspect is somewhat similar to her character judging by her very frank and down to earth approach to interviews and award shows. But all the actors deserve props along with the casting director as each new character is cast to absolute perfection. Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, Elizabeth Banks as Effie and of course, Woody Harrelson as the alcoholic mentor Haymitch get a little extra room to showcase their characters in a meaningful way to the overall story, while newcomers to the series and competitors in the games Sam Claflin as Finnick, Jeffrey Wright as Beetee, Amanda Plummer as Wiress and Jena Malone as Johanna take the ball running.
Those who have read the books can rest assure that their anticipations and expectations will be more than met, while those who haven’t will be taken on a thrilling ride that leads to some very exciting and interesting directions. From beginning to end, THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE is non-stop entertainment that truly succeeds in creating an an all around up-tempo, fun film with a ton of memorable and surprisingly emotional scenes that will have you watching again and again.