Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss Everdeen in this sequel to The Hunger Games. I haven’t read the books yet (although I may well pick them up soon) but I enjoyed the first film, although I thought it had a few flaws and was a bit unpolished in places. In this sequel, Katniss is subjected to more machinations from President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and tries to fight against the system, despite the harrowing consequences of her actions. Due to it being the 75th anniversary of the Games, the special twist to this year’s Games is that it features Victors from previous years.
I thought The Hunger Games: Catching Fire started off at quite a slow pace, but I liked that we saw some of the consequences of the first film, and how the Games affected Katniss. I liked the tension between her and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and the development of her relationship with Gale(Liam Hemsworth). I actually think it’s a testament to Liam Hemsworth’s charisma that despite his small role in both films he’s genuinely believable as an important part of Katniss’ life. I think one of the strongest parts of both films is the love triangle. It doesn’t feel forced or unrealistic, and every emotion feels believable, and the way each character feels is completely understandable. I especially liked how Peeta was developed in this film, I thought he took on a much more important role. In the first film I thought he was a bit of a weak character, but here he had an important role to play and showed that he was just as much involved as Katniss.
In fact, I thought the character work in this film was very strong. Even minor characters had little bits that were memorable. I really liked how the rest of the Victors were portrayed and the dynamics between them, and I really hope we see more of Commander Thread (Patrick St. Esprit) because his brief appearance was deadly and menacing. His voice was filled with controlled anger and bile and I found him truly chilling. The people who returned from the first film were good as well, and this time they were joined by Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee (just an aside, I really love some of these names). He’s a strong addition to the cast and his character is extremely intriguing.
The film is split into two bits, first there’s the political intrigue outside the Games, and I like that we get a wider world view and how the Games actually affect all the Districts. I was actually a little disappointed when the Games began because I like seeing the machinations of President Snow and how the people have made an idol out of Katniss. I always like the talk show scenes with Caesar Flickman (Stanley Tucci) and the one where he introduces the competitors is filled with tension.
Then the Games begin, and this time there are more formidable obstacles for Katniss et al to fight against. I liked the concept of making alliances and again the dynamics between the Victors were handled expertly. The action was done well and some of the effects were really cool. I won’t say much because I don’t want to spoil it, but I will mention that the spinning was one thing I did enjoy a lot. I liked how the theme in this film wasn’t so much about just surviving, but also about fighting back.
As with the first film some of the costume designs were lavish and the film looks gorgeous, especially the contrast between the deprived Districts and the Capital. I know the books are in the Young Adult genre and I suppose these films are mostly geared towards the teenage market, but I thought this was quite a mature film and I’m glad it’s going down that route. There’s no pandering and they don’t shy away from showing some of the brutal and grim realities of this world.
i thoroughly enjoyed the film. As I said before, I enjoyed the first one but this one felt like the studio had more faith in it. The cast was great, the effects were good, I liked how it combined political intrigue with action (it almost feels as though this is how the Star Wars prequels should have married action and politics). I’m also going to say that I think the ending is going to annoy a lot of people. The first film felt like it could stand by itself, but this one felt much more like part of a series. So I did really enjoy it, but it’s mainly a lot of set-up for the next film. It certainly sets things up well, don’t get me wrong, but some people may feel a bit unsatisfied with being left hanging. Honestly though, I could have sat there for another two hours. The pacing of the narrative was excellent and I could have quite happily kept watching.
I was also a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see Peeta disguise himself as a rock again…