The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

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Catching Fire is an excellent follow up to The Hunger Games. It takes everything that made the first movie great– strong leads, political conflict, thrilling action– and expands upon it perfectly. Again, this is a near perfect adaptation of the book, and leaves me anxious for the next installment.

This film picks up where the first left off, following Katniss and Peeta on their Victory Tour after winning the Hunger Games. What I loved the most about this movie is getting a deeper look at Panem society. While the books go into more detail regarding the past games and this rounds tributes, the movie does a fair job with the time given. A lot happens in this story, and obviously most of the time is allotted to action and the love triangle created between Katniss, Peeta, and her best friend, Gale. While I was never crazy about the romance angle, I’m glad the movie doesn’t expand this beyond what it is in the book (though I’m sure this was tempting given the large female audience following this franchise).

At its core Catching Fire is really a war movie (though certainly not on the same level as the next film will be). Katniss is clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after competing in the Games, and like so many service people returning from battle, pushes away those who are trying to help her. There are other former victors also suffering from PTSD, dealing with their emotions in both positive (Peeta engaging in “therapy” through his painting) and negative (Haymitch and the Morphlings self-medicating) ways. I also found the victors’ reactions to being thrown back into the arena very poignant. Their emotions range from anger to shock to despair, echoing the feelings of service people being redeployed so soon after returning home. Yet, when the victors return to the arena, most know what is expected of them and easily fall back into “doing their job”– surviving.

The visuals presented in this movie are excellent. The violence is done well, providing horror to match the tone of the story but leaving just enough to the imagination. The sets were perfectly lifted from the pages of the book, with District 12’s Victor’s housing and the arena being my favorites. Finally, the established cast is joined by a group of excellent new actors, the standouts for me being Jeffrey Wright and Jena Malone.

I cannot wait until the third film is released next month (though I have my reservations about the final book being split into two films).

Rating: A

I was impressed with the first Hunger Games film. It was a great adaptation of a book that would have been really hard to do. The second instalment was more of the same, although I don’t remember the book being quite as graphic as the first one.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire picks up a year after Katniss and Peeta tricked the capital in order to become the first dual winners of the Hunger Games. This has upset a lot of important people in the capital, including the evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland). He can see the other districts are getting inspired by Katniss and a rebellion is beginning. Snow cannot allow this to happen so he threatens Katniss’s family if she cannot snuff out the rebellion she helped create. Snow decides to use the upcoming 75th Hunger Games to put an end to Katniss once and for all. He decides that this version of the Hunger Games will only be made up of previous winners, meaning Katniss will need to enter the arena again as she is the only female winner from District 12. Entering into the arena with her will be a bunch of battle harden veterans, many of whom now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Katniss needs to negotiate a new Hunger Games and hope to survive and join the rebellion that her actions in the previous games started.

The Hunger Games movies are very well done. I enjoyed this second film more than the original. I liked that there were no introductions needed. Much of the first film is spent setting up this world and establishing what the Hunger Games are before the action really starts. This introduction is not required for the second film, so we see much more action in the arena this time around. I really liked the arena, it is set up like a clock and every hour a new threat emerges in one segment. It means that contestants cannot stay in the same part for very long because eventually their section will turn on and try to kill them. It adds tension to the film, and it is also very cool some of the ways the arena tries to kill its inhabitants.

As with the previous film, the adult actors are what really shine here. Stanley Tucci returns as Ceaser Flickerman, host of the Hunger Games, and he is again superb. Jena Malone is also having fun as one of the new contestants of the Hunger Games who is not shy about telling the people of Panem what she thinks about her situation. Philip Seymour Hoffman also appears as the new gamekeeper, in what was one of last roles before his untimely death earlier this year.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a solid follow up to the great original. Surpassing the first one because it is able to jump right into the action rather than waste time introducing everything.

Rating: A

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