Thursday, November 21

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Review

Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Dir: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, and Woody Harrelson.

Suzanne Collins' striking trilogy continues its’ filmic journey with “Catching Fire”, the second of four films (the finale being split into two films) being produced for the franchise. Collins' dystopian world of Panem, where teenagers fight to the death in an annual competition called the Hunger Games, finds the titular character Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) back in her poverty stricken district coping with the emotional ramifications of her victory and the stardom that accompanies it. From the start new director Francis Lawrence sets the tone by allowing the downtrodden atmosphere direct attention while mixing in the tension of a nation in upheaval. “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is a satisfying, if sometimes muddled, film that captures the teeming societal tension found in the book and the building transition of the budding lead character.

Katniss begins the film preparing for the looming victory tour of the Hunger Games. Things are different for Katniss, the world she knows has been affected by the survival tactic that allowed her and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) to both escape the games together through a romantic ruse. The tour means leaving her mother and young sister Primrose but also her obscured relationship with her other suitor Gale (Liam Hemsworth). The twelve districts the two victors will circuit are in the midst of rebellion and the government has taken notice, implementing harsh restrictions and violent counteractions for suppression. Katniss’ defiant actions during the games and on the tour lead President Snow (Donald Sutherland) to implement a change for the Quarter Quell (75th Anniversary of the games) in which past winners of the games are brought back to fight in a battle of champions.

Francis Lawrence accomplishes what the first film attempted to do, which was crafting the realism of world that was desperate and oppressed. Eliminating some of the forced hand-held photography techniques and centering on proper character development helps but allowing focus on the societal structure of a conflicted world filled with only the privileged and the poor maintains the hopelessness felt within the people. This aspect is especially envisioned in the champions returning to battle, their government promises broken and their lives placed on the line again. While Francis does well to fit as much source material in the film there are moments where the narrative drags and some scenes feel like rehashes from the first film, it makes the film feel somewhat disordered.

Jennifer Lawrence offers a better performance as Katniss, this time executing the layered undertones of confusion, anger, and confidence efficiently in the role of a forced hero. Katniss Everdeen is an interesting character and Francis does well to display that essential aspect in this film. Her role is one of growth, she is starting to understand what her actions mean and how they influence the looming uprising seen in the painted defiance of a mocking jay on a tunnel wall or through a honored salute. The added cast members are especially good as well, Jeffery Wright and Amanda Plummer portray two eccentrics who won the games because of intellect, while Jena Malone offers an interesting attitude that plays well off Katniss’ more reserved influence. Returning cast are also given more to work with, particularly Elizabeth Banks who offers a nice balance of prestige and fearful anxiety for her two champions.

“Catching Fire” is a considerably better film than the one that introduced the franchise. Director Francis Lawrence has brought a worthy vision of Suzanne Collins' novel that should satisfy both those familiar and unfamiliar with the source material.

Monte’s Rating

4.00 out of 5.00

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