Catching Fire Blu-ray Sparks New Heights for Franchise
When The Hunger Games hit theaters in early 2012, the film did its job in filling the shoes of Harry Potter. Granted, there is plenty to criticize the film for. With the release of its sequel Catching Fire, there’s no doubt this franchise is on the right foot forward.
Catching Fire is a triumph, righting many of the wrongs of the first movie. First and foremost, the sequel is beautiful to behold, no longer shackled by nauseated shaky-cam. Audiences truly get a real taste of Panem’s offerings minus the hurl factor. All that is thanks to director Francis Lawrence, who took over the reins from Gary Ross.
Lawrence wastes little time getting viewers back into the world. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) realizes that winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games alongside her neighbor Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) goes beyond the games themselves. The two are quickly off on a Victory Tour to the other districts, making speeches and performing other duties assigned to victors. The first 20 minutes are understandably repetitive, but is offset by increasing tension culminating at the Capitol.
Lawrence and Hutcherson seem to click much better in Catching Fire. Their chemistry in The Hunger Games was a tad awkward. But off the bat, there seems to be no explanation how much improvement there’s been in this second go-around. The Victory Tour puts that to the test as the two are forced to live a lie of being madly in love. In reality, Katniss still has the hots for Gale (Liam Hemsworth), who’s hardly fleshed out, setting up an obligatory love triangle.
Once the build-up to the all-star version of the Hunger Games is set up, the film despite feeling like deja-vu snowballs into quite an intense hour. We’re briefly introduced to a brand new cast of competitors, leaving just a few to invest in. Pretty much the ragtag band of allies are all we need to care about. Jeffrey Wright is fine as District 3’s brains Beetee and Lynn Cohen is noteworthy as the elderly mute Mags. However, it’s Sam Claflin and Jenna Malone who steal the show as the muscular Finnick Odair and unstable Johanna Mason respectively.
With all these new additions, there’s little breathing room to explain the rules. Lawrence is heavily depending on the franchise’s established fan base, who are all to familiar with the smaller details. Even clocking in at 146 minutes, Catching Fire still gets the short end of the stick. Anything less would do permanent damage.
Just like with the first film, Lawrence doesn’t disguise author Suzanne Collins’ messages concerning government oppression, class structures and self-preservation. They remain on the forefront, but refreshingly not in a preachy manner.
As far as the actual Blu-ray is concerned, Lionsgate does Catching Fire justice with a stellar overall package. The film looks beautiful in 1080p resolution, capturing the fine details of Panem and the actual games. The darker color palette takes some time to get accustomed to, but it’s still a vast improvement over the visual appeal of the last film on Blu-ray. During the 48 minutes of the Hunger Games, the aspect ratio changes from 1.78:1 from the standard 2.40:1.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 is the strongest element of this disc. The dialogue is crisply coherent even if Katniss may mumble a few lines occasionally. Audio effects benefit, particularly those in the arena sequence and in the Capitol.
Special features are limited in selection, but still offer plenty of insight on the making of the film. Surviving the Game: Making The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is as long as the film itself. However, it’s the key highlight to watch after the movie. There’s also a trailer for Divergent, due out in theaters March 21 and a brief four minutes devoted to deleted scenes.
If you’re a die-hard fan of The Hunger Games or experiencing the phenomenon for the very first time, this Blu-ray edition cannot go unnoticed. A superior film in every which way possible, Catching Fire is up there with some of 2013’s finest.
- Movie: A- (9/10)
- Video: A- (9/10)
- Audio: A (10/10)
- Special Features: B- (7/10)