The Hunger Games: Catching Fire makes the previous film look like child’s play.
Remember The Hunger Games? That movie based on a book that was about kids being locked in an arena and forced to kill other kids in order to survive? Well, if you thought that was intense, brace yourself for Catching Fire, which ups the ante and sets the entire story of Panem on fire.
Let’s start with the story. In The Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta won the competition. They both apparently thought that was the end of their struggles on Panem. Guess what? Now, they’re being forced to go on a tour and face the families of the kids who died in their stead. And although they aren’t really a couple (or are they?), they have to pretend because that’s what the evil president of the Capital wants. Meanwhile, Katniss has started something, just by being herself. People are using her as a symbol of hope, which causes them to begin to rise against those that oppress them. Things are heating up, to say the least. So what does the president do? He decides to instill the tradition that for every 25 years, previous years’ victors of the games have to go back to the arena and do it all again!
This premise makes Catching Fire one of those movies you watch from the edge of your seat, biting your lip and trying not to yell out at the evil rich people of the Capital for making poor Katniss go through that all again. I mean, seriously! This poor girl is tramautized already! But it works and pulls you in emotionally, although much of that has to do with Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role. She makes you feel everything Katniss goes through: the frustration, the anger, the defiance and the fear. And she’s so good at faking it with Peeta that it’s sort of hard to tell when she actually is faking.
Speaking of actors, let’s talk about Peeta. I honestly didn’t care much for him in the first movie, but he’s really grown on me, thanks to his portrayal by Josh Hutcherson. Hutcherson makes Peeta come across as likable, maybe even more so than the guy we think is Katniss’ boyfriend. Peeta is a good guy, darnit, and we need more of those in the world.
However, the shining star in this movie is Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket. Effie could easily be a caricature of a character, but Banks brings a realness to her, even when she’s dressed in over the top dresses, hats and make-up. Whereas Banks could easily have just played her as a dense annoying rich woman, she gives her depth and we realize that even in the Capital, there are people who maybe aren’t as fond of the games as they initially let on, especially when people they care about are involved.
I did, however, have one issue with the film. I have to preface this by stating that I still have not yet read the books. So this may be something lost to film editing. However, when the president announces that the 75th Hunger Games would also be the 25th celebration that brings all of the previous games’ victors back to the arena, why was everyone so surprised? Shouldn’t they have known that it was coming? Sure, the shock and sheer terror on Lawrence’s face as Katniss when she learns of this is a beautiful piece of acting, but story-wise, you would think she’d seen it coming.
The new version of the games itself is also compelling. Having to repeat something like that twice could have let the filmmakers get lazy and recreate scenes from the first film. However (and I’m guess this has something to do with the writing), the new arena is even crazier than the first and you never know what’s going to happen next. The first arena was like a walk in the park compared to this one.
Needless to say, Catching Fire is a great film. It’s the kind of nailbiter that will keep you up at night wanting to know what happens next (yes, the ending is a cliffhanger). It’s also the impetus I need to finally read the books.