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. (IMDB)
Writers: Simon Beaufoy (screenplay), Michael Arndt(screenplay) Susan Collins(Novel)
Director: Francis Lawrence
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Run time/Rating: 146 Minutes/ PG-13
Popcorn Score: Large Popcorn
It didn’t take more than the first 10 seconds for me to know that “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” was already under better supervision than the first installment of the series. Ahh… a steady, slow swooping establishing shot of the country side of Panem. Not a jerky, hand held, seizure inducing mess like Gary Ross gave us throughout the entire first film. Catching Fire, helped of course by the fact that you can follow the action on screen and with a beautiful blockbuster finish and feel brought on by director Francis Lawrence delivers on every level anyone could ask for in this adaptation of the 2nd book in the popular series.
If you love the hunger games because of the romantic triangle that Catniss falls into between Peta and Gale, you will get all of the push and pull that comes with their teenage love. If you love the hunger games because of the political undertones that come with a powerful capital running its futuristic country in a top down torturous manner, you will be pleased with the dialogue and story associated with those issues. Finally, if you love the hunger games because of what happens in the arena with the violent war which is forced upon the people of Panem, you will be pleased by the intense Sci-Fi-action and adventure that the arena brings in this very complete movie.
The games themselves have matured for Catching Fire. With the 75th annual Hunger Games upon the people of Panem, game maker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) suggests that President Snow changes up the ritual and reaps the competitors from the pool of existing winners, two winners from each district. This helps the story advance from bringing another new class of inexperienced teenagers to the arena instead entering former champions in their 20’s 40’s 50’s and even older. These champions of games past all won on their own specific merits and sets of skills which heightens the talent in this competition and makes for much more compelling fighting in the arena. It also allows for great actors to shine in bit parts that frankly, if this series were not so gigantic they would be too big for. Jeffrey Wright as Beetee and Amanda Plummer as his district 3 companion are two examples of this.
The middle portion of a trilogy is always the easiest to make in the sense of the story( in this case, a trilogy in the sense of the novels but 4 total movies – they will be breaking the final book “Mockingjay” up into 2 movies). “The Hunger Games” finished with quite a bit of completion. It could have been a stand-alone movie. In a 2nd part, although they usually intend to give the story completeness, it really is just a bridge from the introduction in the first to the ultimate ending of the story in the last. It leaves you with much more of a tease for what is to come than giving you any immediate satisfaction in the sense of the storyline. I will surely be re-watching Catching Fire right before I see the 1st part of Mockingjay. I thought that Catching Fire served this bridging role brilliantly, setting up everything that a reader of the books or someone who is just along for the cinematic ride could want.