Young adult novel adaptations have become more of a staple in blockbusters each year, one of the better ones was last year’s The Hunger Games. Led by a strong cast, well-rounded characters, and an epic scale, The Hunger Games put viewers into an apocalyptic world with social commentary and lots of action. The second entry, Catching Fire, kicks off right after the first movie and with its new director, thrusts us into a whole new arena of problems for our main characters and a return to the actual arena for another fight,
Catching Fire follows Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) following the events of the last movie’s Hunger Games. They are about to go on the victory tour where they go and speak in each of the districts. Tensions are high between President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and Katniss as hints of rebellion begin to seep into the minds of the people because of what took place at the last Hunger Games.
What works best in this latest entry in the franchise is the immediacy of the consequences that the new filmmaking team put into this movie. New director Francis Lawrence and the writing team of Simon Beaufoy and Michael DeBruyn want the audience to always be ready for the next move and it is conveyed very well throughout the picture. Immediately we are thrown back into the normal life of Katniss as she spends time hunting with pal/love interest Gale (Liam Hemsworth) but a vision shows us that not all is well wit our heroine.
Lawrence paces the movie well giving us action and then story throughout. It was refreshing to see this in Catching Fire after one of my biggest complaints about The Hunger Games was that it spent way too much time explaining just about everything. While important, this bogged the movie down and made it longer than it needed to be and made the games less fun. Catching Fire goes in expecting you to know what’s going on but doesn’t completely leave the last movie in the dust. It goes over previous things quickly and then moves on to something more progressive.
What makes it special is how it is a blockbuster will constant issues to deal with. Katniss and Peeta are always having to deal with something and it makes the movie move quickly even with the 2 hour and 26 minute running time. Once they return to the games, the action picks up and the fun begins.Catching Fire‘s games are better than the ones in The Hunger Games because the audience isn’t forced into caring for each person involved. You go in knowing that the people are going to die and that you are not supposed to like some of them. There is also the issue of President Snow overseeing it that makes the problems bigger than just a group of people running around an arena trying to kill you (if that could be believed).
Jennifer Lawrence continues to give great performances in the series and Catching Fire puts her character in a different hole than the previous movie. The stakes are raised and the circumstances are different and Lawrence faces them with deep emotion and pain as the people she cares about get hurt around her. Hutcherson is better in this than Hunger Games because of the growth of his character and the fact that he loses the veil of damsel in distress. The rest of the cast is strong with Stanley Tucci, Jeffrey Wright, and Jena Malone coming out with great side performances. While a great actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character seemed flat and while he may become more important later, felt unnecessary, and brought nothing to the plot.
Catching Fire is a great blockbuster and leaves you with a cliffhanger that ups the ante for Mockingjay Part 1 and 2. The cast continues to do a stand-up job and the Francis Lawrence looks like the perfect director for the franchise. Count me as one interested to see the next steps in the franchise.