"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
"The Hunger Games", released in 2012 based on the novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins, set off a frenzy. From the themes to the suspense to the romance between the two main characters, the movie became a global phenomenon, with the movie gaining positive praise from both critics and audiences alike. Because of this, the sequel to the first book, "Catching Fire", was not only greenlit, but was given a much bigger budget and had a much bigger marketing campaign. With new director Francis Lawrence, who replaced the first film's director Gary Ross, he delivered a fantastic follow-up to the first movie, surpassing everything that the first film had done.
The film opens up after the events of the first one, with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) now living in Victor's Village in District 12. They are forced to go on a Victor's Tour, where they must go to every District and provide a message of support and love for the evil Capitol, which pitted them against each other in the Hunger Games in the first place. This easily takes a toll on the two victors, especially since they helped start an uprising during the conclusion of their Hunger Games.
President Snow (Donald Sutherland) notices there is an uprising forming, and wants to snuff it out as quickly as possible. So, for the 75th Hunger Games, he decides he is going to have the Reaping consist of the existing pool of Victors, forcing those who have survived these deadly games to go back and fight for their lives once again. This is horrible news for Katniss, as she is the only female victor from her District. When her and Peeta get chosen to go back into the Arena, they must now figure out a way for them both to survive, making both allies and friends out of fellow victors Finnick Odair (Sam Claffin), Johanna Mason (Jena Malone), Wiress (Amanda Plummer), and Mags (Lynn Cohen), to name a few.
Due to the higher budget, and the places they go and things they experience, this film is so much bigger than "The Hunger Games". Because of that, it really immerses the viewer into the movie. At the same time, the stakes are so much higher. Not only do our characters have to go back into the deadly Arena, but they also must face the wrath of President Snow, who will do anything to stop another uprising. Because of all of these entanglements and backstabbing between characters, the story is so interesting and keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat throughout the runtime.
Lawrence and Hutcherson come back and give fantastic performances, as well as those who played the minor characters in the first movie. In terms of their performances, one scene that stands out to me is when Peeta, Katniss, and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) find out they must go back and fight in the Hunger Games. Their reactions are chilling, and they give me goosebumps every time I watch this film. Then, when they go in the arena (which I think this Hunger Games present here was much better than in the first movie) they give these performances where you constantly question how they feel towards each other. Peeta is heartbroken because he found out Katniss didn't really love him in the first movie, but you think you see her true feelings come forward throughout the arena scenes in this one. They do a great job of crafting these complex emotions that keeps the viewer constantly guessing throughout the film.
In terms of the new characters here, the filmmakers and actors craft these characters to make them so much different than the others. Finnick is perhaps the fan favorite of this picture, and Claffin does such a great job of making him so lovable and charismatic. Then, you have Mags, a little old lady that Finnick is sworn to protect in the arena. She is able to warm the hearts of the audience, and make them feel so drawn to her. As a viewer, you want her to survive the games, but you know it is inevitable that she is going to perish somewhere through the movie. All of these new victors are so well-written and created, adding more depth to them than the tributes present in "The Hunger Games".
In terms of filmmaking and style, I think I like Lawrence's take here more than I did Ross'. It seems like Lawrence knows how to craft this film more than Ross did, and adds his own flair to many of the scenes. When our characters actually get into the arena, Lawrence knew how to shoot these scenes and make them more exciting and fast-paced than Ross did. Even though this movie is more upsetting and distributing, I would say this is also more enjoyable than the first movie.
All in all, I think this is easily the best film in the Hunger Games saga, and they basically do almost everything right here. It's enjoyable, action-packed, emotional at times, and everyone is performing at their best. While the next two films in the franchise aren't as great as these past two films, I think Lawrence and his ensemble of actors really made something special here.