If ever a franchised relied on a key actor and his or her portrayal of the story’s protagonist, Jennifer Lawrence is to The Hunger Games, what Daniel Radcliff is to Harry Potter. Her embodiment of Katniss Everdeen in the series’ latest installment captivates more even than any of the film’s exciting action sequences, of which some aspect even outdo the first installment. When on screen, Lawrence demonstrates why she is cinemas new “it” girl.
Opening with Katniss crouched in the forest, bow and arrow in hand, shifting quickly into action and to the 75th annual Hunger Games, Catching Fire, plays out as any sequel should, adding new characters, reintroducing old ones and killing off some of each for fodder. Katniss and Peeta, the heroes of the previous games and others triumphant tributes gather to compete in what is sure to be the most intense and surprising game in the Capital’s bloody history. And it is – for over two hours of vivid, visually stunning, relentless run-time, right up until the tremendous, cliff-hanger final scene.
Unlike Radcliff, Lawrence isn’t just Katniss, a character come to life from a popular Susanne Collins novel, she, a young woman virtually unknown until three years ago when she demonstrated pure, raw, natural talent in Winter’s Bone, brings 100% of herself to the screen. She is a movie star, who can actually act – a rarity if one thinks about it. While other characters (Gale, Effie, Haymitch and Cinna and Snow) move wonderfully (and with talent) in her wake, she acts as the well-grounded cog in a film that is really little more than“ a middle.” Katniss and her story leave us wanting more. Who cares that her quiver seems magical, always providing an arrow into Katniss’ steady hand?
With a hint of an impending rebellion simmering just above the surface in the dismal, depressed Districts, Catching Fire crescendos neatly into a clearly festering finale leaving fans longing for more. I do believe director, Francis Lawrence could perhaps have left fifteen to twenty more minutes on the cutting room floor, as a few sequences drag on, but he clearly and stunningly accomplishes his goals. I am giving The Hunger Games: Catching Fire a B+. With an ensemble cast that includes Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, an wonderful hilarious Elizabeth Banks and the masterfully morphing Stanley Tucci, I’d be remiss in not giving them kudos. Catching Fire accomplished precisely what it sets out to do.