Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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After surviving the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen just wants to lead a normal life, but the President has other ideas for her as a revolution begins around the country.

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Francis Lawrence, 2013

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), traumatised from her experiences in the Hunger Games the year prior, is trying to go back to her everyday life in District Twelve, hunting food for her family with Gale (Liam Hemsworth). The Victor’s Tour is looming, however, and she soon has to embark upon it with fellow victor Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), their mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), and their manager Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks). As they tour around Panem (future America), Katniss sees the seeds of uprising across the nation – her desperate act of defiance at the end of the Games, which kept herself and Peeta alive, was the catalyst, an act of hope among the despair. In a desperate attempt to keep the people of Panem under control, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) organises a very special 75th Hunger Games, a Quarter Quell, with the help of new head gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Katniss finds herself once again drawn into the world of the Games, but the stakes are now higher than ever.

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Francis Lawrence continues the excellent adaptations of the Hunger Games book series, upping the ante in the second film and delivering a thriller that sticks close to the books while keeping the story clear enough for non-book lovers to follow. There might be some confusion towards the end when everything comes together (although to be fair, there’s some confusion on Katniss’s part there too), but on the whole the team have really portrayed the book’s themes and atmosphere very well on the big screen. This film introduces some new fan favourite characters, including the charming former victor Finnick Odair (sharp-edged Sam Claflin) and the defiant Johanna Mason (Jena Malone, kicking ass and taking names), but the film never loses focus of its electric lead. Jennifer Lawrence brings a real weight to Katniss’s struggles to do what’s right, and is ably supported in the love triangle by handsome, impatient Liam Hemsworth and kind, soulful Josh Hutcherson. Adding some class are acting heavyweights Stanley Tucci in a bitingly funny turn as TV host Ceasar Flickerman, Seymour Hoffman’s chess master Plutarch Heavensbee, and another great performance from Sutherland as the darkly sinister President Snow. Elizabeth Banks is also a standout as Effie Trinket, the heavily made-up Capital manager whose composure crumbles as her charges face death once more.

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Katniss, Effie and Peeta all dolled up in the Capitol.

Importantly, this film shifts its focus to the crumbling of Panem’s society, in which thirteen districts have been punished for an uprising that took place 75 years before using the Hunger Games, which pits children against each other in a murderous arena. As with the book, this movie balances the personal and the political as Katniss starts to gain an understanding of what’s happening in the world around her – she starts to grow up and realise that the world isn’t what she thought. Her actions have consequences, and she continues to be a fantastic hero for girls – she refuses to play nice, but she’s strong and defiant, a defender of those who cannot help themselves. Morality moves from black and white, a matter of mere survival, into something more grey – is it better to live by deplorable rules or die fighting for something better? The colour palette of the film is extreme, but the rose-tinted world of the Capital is a nice touch, and it’s fitting that the arena seems the most real – no matter how she tries to escape them, the Hunger Games have become Katniss’s world. The costume design is superb, bringing the intricate world of the book bursting to life on screen (with the exception of the weird metal things in Peeta’s collars). Unfortunately the film and book suffer from the same lack of a satisfying ending, setting up for the third installment rather than making a complete film, but otherwise this is a great action film, particularly for young women looking for a hero.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire on IMDb

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