NOVEMBER 24, 2013

Containing many of the same issues I had with the original, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” does take a step up from its predecessor. It delivers more suspense, a much better cast, and much stronger performances. One key aspect to focus on is that Jennifer Lawrence now has an Academy Award between this and her previous performance as Katniss Everdeen. Bringing that year of newfound acting knowledge, she’s able to take hold of this role and go full force. The hokey nature of the film and its source material still pokes through in characters like Stanley Tucci and the erratic and bumbling nature of the forced elements in the Games, this time involving poisonous fog, killer apes, and a spinning clock of death. Isn’t the “Running Man” nature of the film, with people hunting people suspenseful enough?

Why author Suzanne Collins finds it necessary to add these strange elements is beyond me. That being said, “Catching Fire” does take a much darker approach to the material, with executions and a sadness radiating from the districts as Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) go on their winners’ tour. The stakes eventually reach higher levels, as previous winners are picked to return to the Hunger Games. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) wants revenge on Katniss for showing him up during last year’s games. The newer cast members also steal the show, with Philip Seymour Hoffman becoming the new Gamekeeper, Plutarch Heavensbee, and although his real involvement will come in the future installments, his performance in this film is just subtle enough to be worthwhile. Also, the ever-attractive Jena Malone enters the Games as former winner Johanna Mason, bringing another much needed strong female role to the film. With impressive performances from returning stars like Woody Harrelson as Haymitch and Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, the deck is stacked with high caliber performances.

The scenes leading up to the Games are built with suspense unmatched by the original film. With the marketing straying away from the actual Games, I had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. With the “Harry Potter” mentality that Katniss is “the one,” the constant shifty looks and telegraphed changes of the heart do make for some entertaining reactions from Katniss herself. Once again, in the end, this comes off once again too black-and-white in the good versus evil spectrum. With an interruption in the game eventually leading to a somewhat anti-climatic end, I’m still impressed by the change of pace in such a big blockbuster. Although it ends up making the entire 75th annual Hunger Games seem a little unnecessary in the end, the concept has eventually grown on me. Also, with a strong original soundtrack from popular artists, like Coldplay, Of Monsters and Men, The Lumineers, and Imagine Dragons, especially apparent in the credits, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” takes an even bigger step in becoming that much more relevant to me. Again, with the same dislikes in both of these films, I can appreciate where this series is coming from and its willingness to change in the second adaptation and with strong performances, especially from Academy Award-winning Jennifer Lawrence, I am appreciative of this film and look forward to its next installments.

November 22, 2013

Francis Lawrence

Simon Beaufoy
Michael deBruyn

“Catching Fire”
by Suzanne Collins


(for intense sequences of violence and action, some frightening images, thematic elements, a suggestive situation and language)


146 minutes

Jo Willems

James Newton Howard

Alan Edward Bell

Jennifer Lawrence
Josh Hutcherson
Liam Hemsworth
Woody Harrelson
Elizabeth Banks
Lenny Kravitz
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Jeffrey Wright
Stanley Tucci
Donald Sutherland
Jena Malone
Paula Malcomson
Toby Jones
Sam Claflin
Jack Quaid

Nina Jacobson
Jon Kilik

$140 million

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