Last year’s screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games was critically and commercially a huge success, boasting the biggest opening weekend for a non-sequel at the time. So, hot on the trails of that massive achievement comes Catching Fire, the second part in what will eventually be a quadrilogy (third part Mockingjay will be split into two films).
Jennifer Lawrence steps into Katniss Everdeen’s well-worn hunting boots for the second time, as Katniss and fellow winner of the 74th Hunger Games Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are about to find out just how far President Snow will push them…
Title: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Directed by: Frances Lawrence (Constantine, I Am Legend, Water for Elephants,…)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, and others…
Based on: The novel Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Running time: 146 minutes
Picking up several months after Katniss and Peeta’s rebellious joint victory in the 74th edition of the Hunger Games, Katniss is emotionally shattered. Suffering from frequent flashbacks and horrid nightmares on her time in the arena, the last thing she’s looking forward to is the impending Victory Tour of Panem she’ll have to undertake with Peeta.
Added to that is an unexpected and very unwelcome visit from the seething evil that is President Snow (a terrifying Donald Sutherland), with the message that she is not to inspire anything other than love for the Capitol amongst the Districts or else…
Katniss and Peeta embark on the tour, again playing out the “star-crossed lovers” scenario that managed to win them the Games in the first place. But something is different – something that Katniss is witness to on their visit to District 11, where they face the families of former allies Rue and Thresh. As first Peeta, then Katniss offer their heartfelt support for those left behind, an old man in the audience whistles Rue’s mockingjay call and gives Katniss the three-fingered salute of support.
The man is executed by the Peacekeepers in front of Katniss, and the incident sets off a chain of events leading to an uprising in the Districts.
President Snow, now seething with even more evil, then lays down his ace card: this year’s Games mark the 75th anniversary of the rebellion against the Capitol – and the Third Quarter Quell. Seeing as the Quarter Quell, held every 25 years as a special reminder that the Capitol are basically utter bastards, marks a change in rules, the President announces that this year the Tributes will be reaped from the existing pool of Victors.
So Katniss and Peeta return to the arena, flanked by 22 other previous Victors who are not best pleased with this turn of events – and are planning a rebellion against the Capitol of their own…
So… good film?
Darker, tenser and faster than its predecessor, Catching Fire may be clocking in at 146 minutes of film, but it will keep your attention all the way. There are bits where the film threatens to lose its punch (the early scenes with Gale come to mind), but luckily, they are few and far between.
There are moments of genuine, jump-out-of-your-skin fear once the Tributes hit the arena (oh Jesus, the monkeys. The bloody monkeys), but there are plenty of heavy-hitting scenes leading up to the main event – the public whipping of Gale and the sudden, brutal attack on Cinna just before Katniss is transported to the arena come to mind. Needless to say, it ain’t a light watch.
But the cast is on top form – Jennifer Lawrence proves again that there’s really no-one else who can play Katniss like her, and the rest of the returning cast manage to accurately portray the evolution of their characters – with Elizabeth Banks’ considerably more muted Effie Trinket as a stand-out.
Of the newcomers, Sam Claflin and Jena Malone manage to give a dark edge to their portrayal of Finnick Odair and Johanna Mason. Jeffrey Wright is manically brilliant as the genius Beetee, and casting veteran actresses Amanda Plummer and Lynn Cohen as Wiress and Mags respectively is a move I tip my hat for.
All in all, a solid sequel to a solid film. Mockingjay has got a lot to live up to…
See it if:
You are a fan of the books and/or the previous film – You’re a fan of Jennifer Lawrence (and, honestly, you should be because she’s amazing) – You want to watch a YA adaptation that doesn’t necessarily focus on romance – You support the rebellion against the evil forces of the Capitol
You’re not willing to watch a 146-minute long film – You haven’t read the first book/ seen the first film (otherwise, you’ll be missing out on context) – You didn’t like the books/previous film – It’s not your kind of film – You have pledged allegiance to President Snow (Panem Forever!)