Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Director: Francis Lawrence
The whole world probably saw Catching Fire the weekend it came out. With the array of young adult adaptations, The Hunger Games franchise has emerged victorious among its competitors, lining up to the success of its fellow franchises, namely Harry Potter and the Twilight franchise. While the franchise has yet to earn its ranks as one of the classics, Catching Fire delivers enough fuel to keep its audiences satisfied, triumphing over its predecessor by miles. However, the movie was still lacking in some perspective, with Mockingjay hopefully filling the void and closing the franchise with a bang.
Katniss and Peeta were about to start their Victory tour when she gets an unexpected visit from President Snow. It seems that her act of defiance in the games sparked something more, it sparked a rebellion, a burst of hope from the districts to take up arms and take over the Capitol. President Snow aimed to brush that hope out by threatening Katniss, having her display her support to the Capitol, but her acts proved otherwise. This then led to the revise ruling of the 75th Hunger Games, otherwise known as the Quarter Quell, in which previous tributes are to be chosen and placed back to the arena.
The continuation of the Games, the novel may be inferior to the first book, but in terms of material, there was more to be used here. There was growth in Katniss and Peeta's relationship, as well as some sort of clarity as to where she stood with Gale. There were new personalities; some are allies while the others are foes. Now it wasn't just about fending off yourself in the arena, but it was a start of something bigger than Katniss could have imagined.
Catching Fire triumphed The Hunger Games in many reasons. Besides getting to enjoy it in a more pleasant manner rather than the gritty style used in the first film, they were written to have more personality rather than the stoic versions of themselves in the books. Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson have amped their characters, with the script calling for their vulnerability and showing off their strengths, rather than Katniss always having a stiff exterior, or Peeta being the optimist of things. There's also some credit to Liam Hemsworth (who actually had a lot more screen time), with Gale not being just a strong flimsy character, but of someone who actually thinks rationally.
Actors who reprised their roles couldn't be any better, particularly of Haymitch and Effie. Haymitch really stood as the mentor, and his presence was more defined. Effie, played brilliantly by Elizabeth Banks had actual heart, instead of her book's placid persona. She dons her upbeat smile and take on caring for her tributes, but behind closed doors she is one with them. It's disappointing that the movie doesn't spend much time with the other tributes, as I think it would have been nice if they had more screen time. Jena Malone as Johanna was great; I never really pictured her in the role, but she got spunk and brought a lot of it. Her character was more memorable than Finnick's, who was someone that's quite big in the novel, but took a step back in the film.
The movie started off in a great note. The plot was getting its build up in the first half of the movie, but when they entered the arena, it all sort of fell apart. I was actually expecting that they focus more on the games this time, but the film took its sweet time back at the Capitol. It was somewhat disappointing, because there was a lot of material to capitalize on, but even if the movie did just that, it lacked the certain explanation or the certain hints as to why that was important. Which is why if you haven't read the book, you might be confused about certain details here and there.
The arena activity in this installment was a bit of a let down. It's the Games! There were tons of thrilling challenges, and with the advancement in effects, I would have loved to see the same amount of work given at the Capitol scenes. However, there really wasn't much excitement to the games. It can be argued that it might have been because of it's PG 13 rating, but certain rewrites and CGI work could have made the scenes a little more exciting and a little less bland. We were treated with the scenes with acid rain and the crazy baboons, but that's really hardly anything.
The movie itself was good as a whole, and it was in fact better than the first movie (a rare occurrence, really). Still, it lacks certain factors for the franchise to reach its borders to much loved franchises. However, with the cast that they have on hand, I don't think the support for the franchise is going to waver any time soon. I honestly think this is a franchise that is supported mainly because of the books, as the casting of names doesn't allow the attention to deviate from the substance of the books. While it still needs that big finish, hopefully Mockingjay fits the bill just right.