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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Review


The first Hunger Games arrived surrounded by a choking cloud of hype, the novels on which it was based bringing a ready made fan base, while the studios were pushing it to replicate the success of fellow book to movie graduate, Twilight. But it managed to live up to the hype, delivering a solid and entertaining movie, quite a bit darker than most teen lit adaptions, with a fantastic performance from Jennifer Lawrence leading the charge. Now we have the second installment, Catching Fire, with Francis Lawrence replacing Gary Ross at the helm. So, does it live up to the original?

After defying the rules, and becoming the first ever double winners of The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutchinson) have unwittingly sown the seeds of revolution within the twelve sectors of futuristic dictatorship Panem. With the Quarter Quell, the 75th anniversary of the games and the end of the rebellion which birthed them, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) adds a new rule to the upcoming games in attempt to get rid of Katniss, who he views as the figurehead of the new rebellion. The latest contestants are to be picked from previous victors, and Katniss and Peeta are forced to once again fight for their lives in a much more dangerous competition.

Even though there is a change in director, the style and tone of the original carries over to this installment. With the world building of the first movie out of the way, Catching Fire wastes no time in upping the stakes of the story, which it does considerably. Only hinted at before, the rebellion takes centre stage here, informing much of the plot, with the story becoming one about not just a single person's survival, but the survival of an entire nation. It is quite slow to start, getting all the pieces in place, and hammering home the plight of Panem. Once The Hunger Games are announced, the story picks up, but slips into familiar territory, rehashing the training scenes and public interviews from the first film. It is a nice way of introducing new characters, such Sam Claflin's trident wielding Finnick Odair and Jena Malone's Johanna (a feistier version of Katniss basically), but it covers no new ground. The games itself are where the real meat of the movie lies, and once that countdown clock reaches zero, Catching Fire kicks into high gear. There is a much more sci-fi bent this time round, echoing the likes of The Running Man or Logan's Run, with poisonous fog, force fields, and genetically engineered monkeys all coming together to off the contestants. The action scenes come thick and fast, and while it repeats the same problem of making many of the participants in the games an unknown entity, there is real weight to what transpires. The blood shed is kept to a minimum, but Catching Fire is much darker than it's predecessor, not afraid to psychically and mentally torture the characters. One scene of Katniss forced to endure the recorded cries of her sister is especially powerful. On top of the games, there is an added mystery involving some of the other contestants that is slowly fed to us as the movie goes by, before being all wrapped up in a game changing finale that promises a nice break in formula for the final two installments, Mockingjay parts one and two.

Jennifer Lawrence continues to impress in the role of Katniss. Her strong demeanour is still present, ready to do what it takes to survive, but there are cracks beginning to show in her armour, letting out her softer side. She is still a kick ass heroine, but seeing a more human side to her makes her grow as a character. The rest of the cast do an admirable job of trying to keep up with her, but they feel put to the side whenever it is Katniss's time to shine. Of the returning cast, Woody Harrellson, Elizabeth Banks, and Stanley Tucci, again putting in an fanatically over the top caricature of a t.v. presenter, make the most impact, with Sutherland cutting an imposing presence as the soft spoken, yet devious president. Jenna Malone could have done with more screen time, her 'screw you' attitude livening up proceedings, while another newcomer, Philip Seymour Hoffman, hardly breaks a sweat as games maker Plutarch Heavensbee, but still puts across an air of menace. Though he must have missed the memo about wearing a ridiculous costume to go with his ridiculous name.

A worthy successor to the original, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a thrilling slice of entertainment, one that ups the ante considerably. Highly recommended!

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The Movie Bit: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Review
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Review
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