Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The
Release date: November 22, 2013
Director: Francis Lawrence
Novel by: Suzanne Collins
Screenplay by: Simon Beaufoy, Michael Arndt
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone, Sam Claflin, Lynn Cohen, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Paula Malcomson, Willow Shields
I’ll be honest with you: after watching the first film last year, I wasn’t anticipating the sequel that much. However, I ended up buying an afternoon ticket last Saturday to see
Tiffany Maxwell  participating in a deadly tournament The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
The second film picks up some time after the 74th Hunger Games tournament and shows the consequences of the unusual double victory of District 12’s Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Hutcherson): the sensation of a rebellion among Panem’s districts is cooking and that’s not pleasing President Snow (Sutherland) at all. Just before Katniss and Peeta are ready to embark the traditional Victor’s Tour, Snow reunites with Katniss in hopes to put an end to the emerging rebellion. However, things doesn’t go as planned for Snow and just in time for the 75th Hunger Games tournament, a new rule is added because of the “Quarter Quell”, which allows the Capitol to add a twist and this time, the female and male contestants will be selected from the exisiting winners of the previous Hunger Games editions. And with a news gamesmaker in Plutarch Heavensbee (Hoffman), who also serves as an advisor to Snow, things aren’t looking pretty for Katniss at all.
While I haven’t read any of The Hunger Games books yet, the good news about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is that it is actually a much more enjoyable film than the first one. You could say that the first film works as a couch, but it’s inevitable to sense that there’s a lot more at stake on Catching Fire than in the previous film thanks to everything involving the rebellions among the Districts and how the Capitol tries to keep it under control as well as the tournament itself. From the first film, I really liked the set-up for the tournament more than the tournament itself and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is stronger in both fronts, especially with the pre-tournament stuff. But what’s even better is that the issues I had with the first film are gone.
- Shaky cam and copout deaths during the tournament? Gone. Direction-wise, Francis Lawrence is a big upgrade compared to Gary Ross and he ditches the shaky cam in favor of visuals that enhance the film’s nature as well as getting good-to-great moments out of his cast members.
- Peeta? Peeta got upgraded thanks to the screenwriting and feels less bland to watch this time. Also, Josh Hutcherson seems more comfortable in his role and actually gelled well with Jennifer Lawrence and Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch.
- Having a hard time caring about anything other than Katniss during the tournament? The tournament in Catching Fire feels more deadlier than the previous film and there’s actually developed characters during the tournament itself: tech-savvy folks Beetle (Wright) and Wiress (Plummer) from District 3, sarcastic punk Johanna (Malone) from District 7, good-looking athletic Finnick (Claflin) and his old mentor Mags (Cohen) from District 4. While Mags and Wiress didn’t amount to much compared to the other 3 characters, they still had more value than any of the participants of the 74th Hunger Games not named Katniss, Peeta or Rue.
One of the things I also enjoyed was seeing the Panem characters — Gale (Hemsworth), Prim (Shields) and Mrs. Everdeen (Malcomson) — feeling slightly more important. Also, this film is packed with hints of sarcasm and lots of hat-tipping towards the first film. The acting from most of the cast is fine and made the characters feel real, but Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss is stellar as she commands the film and provides a solid range of expressions regarding everything (past traumas, feelings, morals, current events, etc.) surrounding Katniss. I’d say J. Lawrence (and Katniss) is a bigger treat to watch that the games itself.
While the film is great and sets up huge momentum for Mockingjay, there’s two thing that derails my interest a bit in seeing the final chapter of Katniss’ story being played out. The first one is the obvious issue of splitting the final book in two parts [1 & 2] which will end up with an uneven film treatment [see: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2]. The other one is with the film’s ending, which felt a bit thin in contrast to everything that came before it. Other than those issues, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is worth a watch on the big screen and it’s one of the biggest surprises of 2013 for me considering I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it after the first film.