The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth
Catching Fire — the sequel to the 2012 film The Hunger Games, based on the second book in Suzanne Collins’s Mockingjay trilogy — is simply amazing.
Set in the apocalyptic Panem, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is just trying to get back to normal at home in District 12. Or as normal as you can get after being forced to fight 22 other children in a televised fight to the death in the Hunger Games for the “Capitol,” the ruling district.
Unfortunately, she’s drawn the ire of President Snow, the leader of Panem. Katniss won the games with a last-minute trick, making herself and her pretend boyfriend Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) co-champions, but this trick looks like an act of defiance to the people of Panem, giving them hope that they can revolt.
So, Snow insists, Katniss must convince the people that she defied the Capitol only because she was in love with Peeta. But the citizens still begin to revolt, inspired by Katniss. The retaliatory viciousness of the Peacekeepers combined with the starkness of the districts makes every riot seem terrifyingly real. When citizens are killed, Katniss’ anguish reminds us that this isn’t a game.
Snow’s solution is to send Katniss, and all previous victors to an even bigger Hunger Games — the Quarter Quell — hoping to finish off Katniss’s troublemaking for good.
After the success of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire received a bigger budget, and the movie clearly put the money to good use. The new arena for the games is filled with amazing gadgets, horrific beasts, and beautiful colors, highlighting the difference between the poor districts and the unbelievably wealthy Capitol.
The movie also benefits from the reduction in exposition. You’ll definitely need to see the Hunger Games or read the books to catch all the references, but this movie doesn’t have to waste time setting up the story. Plus, Catching Fire smooths over heavy-handed allegories about society’s materialism to make more time for action.
This is really Jennifer Lawrence’s movie though — she shines in every scene. While eulogizing a friend who died in the previous Hunger Games, her shaky voice and tearful face convey the consequences of so much death, even though the movie seems to rush over the impact at times. As a result, other characters seem mundane by comparison. The dictatorial President Snow seems as harmless as a butterfly when making death threats, yet Lawrence’s terrified face makes us feel real fear.
Even with the widening scope of Catching Fire, Jennifer Lawrence makes the movie a thrilling ride. It’s certainly an amazing movie, better than the first Hunger Games movie, and possibly even better than the book.