Dir: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Liam Hemsworth and Donald Sutherland
Synopsis: Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem
*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler as always*
I’ll admit, I didn’t like The Hunger Games and I read the book (yes I know, “the book is always better” blah blah blah). I had nothing against anybody in the movie but the movie to me was a bit on the boring side and some of the changes they made were a bit iffy to me. But, that is the nature of Hollywood adaptations. So saying Catching Fire is better than The Hunger Games for me isn’t really saying that much. However, it is a better movie than the first and the performances this time around better too.
The movie starts off showing Katniss (Lawrence) hasn’t forgotten her time during The Games right before President Snow (Sutherland) shows up at her house and asks her if she’s ready to be in a real war and ready to lose everyone she cares about die. Snow knows that Katniss risking her life to save her and Peeta (Hutcherson) lives has started a revolution that he doesn’t want. Snow then puts forth The Quarter Quell. The Quarter Quell puts all past victors from past Hunger Games into the games. Snow sees this as an opportunity to not only get rid of the other victors but also squash a rebellion, and even get rid of Katniss.
The first half sets up our past characters in Katniss, Peeta, Gale (Hemsworth), Haymitch (Harrelson), even Effie (Banks) and Cinna (Kravitz) although their characters have very small roles compared to the newcomers. Speaking of them, our main new characters include the Capital’s favorite Finnick Odair (Claflin), Johanna Manson (Malone), and Beetee (Wright). All have their moments but Claflin and Malone stick out and are the better of the new additions that also include the new Games Maker, Plutarch Heavensbee played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman nearly steals the show next to the always reliable Stanley Tucci playing energetic TV host Caesar Flickerman.
The movie does have a different feel to it and it’s because of the director change from Gary Ross to Francis Lawrence. Lawrence’s world is cold and hopeless which fits how everyone from Katniss to the other victors feel about the situation. However, one of the things that Lawrence keeps, that isn’t for the better, is the certain beat the movie has before it gets to the area. It is structured that way in the book but the way Katniss and Peeta scope out the new competitors in the training session and their individual tests does feel like a “been there done that” feel.
Once we get to the area, that’s where things start to gear up. The action starts right away (and shaky cam free in case you were wondering) and a bit more violent than then first movie but again it does make sense since the stakes are bigger this time around and it’s no longer “a game.” Even when the action is at a standstill the characters are being developed so we can care about them, which I know sounds weird but considering this is a movie about people killing each other left and right this kind of stuff matters.
Acting wise, Jennifer Lawrence is the star of the show. Her performance ranges all over the place from heroic to vulnerable to scared and proves that his role is hers and hers alone. Hutcherson has more to do this time around bringing empathy and being the mouth-piece in a sense. Sutherland’s President Snow is a little more menacing this time around. He’s still the man behind the curtain but he does everything he can to make sure Katniss doesn’t survive.
All in all, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a better outing from the first movie along with the acting and action. The set up for the next two movies, Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2, should get fans of the book and non-fans excited. But again, for me, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first movie but this was an improvement.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
3.5 out of 5