Catching Fire will leave you wanting more.
After winning of the 74th Annual Hunger Games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) want to go back to their normal lives, but they must first embark on a tour to all 12 districts to talk about their win. During their tour, Katniss begins to feel an overwhelming amount of grief as she and Peeta talk to the Districts citizens about their lost members. It is on this tour where Katniss realizes that she can no longer fake what she feeling and must speak the truth about how she feels. This speech inspires several people to begin rebelling against President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the Capital. It doesn’t take long before President Snow labels Katniss as a threat and works with head game master Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to change the rules and make Katniss partake in the 75th Annual Hunger Games with a plan to end her existence once and for all.
Almost everyone I know was a fan of the original Hunger Games film. It was a film that really connected with both sexes as well as audiences of all ages. The first film was a solid starting point for the series, but definitely left me wanting more. Catching Fire picks up almost directly where The Hunger Games concluded and right from the get go, it feels like a better crafted film and in all honesty made me appreciate the first film more than I did before since the sequel really built up the original story.
Truth be told, The Hunger Games made Jennifer Lawrence a household name and introduced the world to a talent that only critics were aware of previously. I personally think Katniss Evergeen is a strong female character that is really empowering to both women and men alike. What I love about Katniss is that she is strong willed but isn’t afraid to do what is right. Katniss is a moral character with brains and emotions. I really connected with her in this film and felt the array emotions that she was feeling. Lawrence plays this character with such depth that you can’t help but root for her right from the very beginning. I thought Lawrence’s performance was the strongest element in the first film, and it still is in Catching Fire.
One of the biggest differences of The Hunger Games compared to Catching Fire is that I felt that the character development was substantllly better this go around. In the first film, we briefly got to know some of these characters, but in this film we begin feeling their pain and understanding where they are coming from. As a viewer, I began to learn more about the characters introduced in the first film and felt more of a connection with them. I didn’t really care about Peeta or Gale (Liam Hemsworth) the first time around, but here I did. Furthermore, what makes that element stranger is that Catching Fire introduces several other key characters including Joanna (Jena Malone), Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), and Finnick (Sam Claflin) all of which, add layers to the storyline. While these characters aren’t fully fleshed out in this film, they do have enough story that you become connected with them and want to see more of them. The first film failed to do that for me and I didn’t care about anyone other than Katniss.
In terms of the story, I loved all the directions that the film went into. I have not read this book series so I wasn’t aware of all the twists and turns that took place. I feel like this story had a lot to say about media, politics, and social issues. I thought those elements were wonderfully embedded within the film and wasn’t something that was shoved down our throats but was definitely hinted at or mentioned throughout the film. I also felt that there was a lot going on within the film itself and with the introduction of these new characters especially Plutarch Heavensbee it really grabbed my attention and sucked me into the film.
Like most sequels, Catching Fire, on the surface, seems like it would simply be more of the same, but luckily for us it isn’t like that at all. The entire 75th annual Hunger Games is nothing like the 74th. By changing the arena and rules, it made the story feel fresh since it went into a completely different direction. The whole thing about arena being setup like a clock was unique and the obstacles in this one were much more creative than people just killing one another to become the victor. I will say that while the actual games aren’t as action packed in terms of fighting and violence as the original was, I did feel that the games made for a much more interesting film allowing the audience to think rather than just be entertained.
Lastly, the direction by Francis Lawrence was top notch. He captures everything the first film captured and more. The biggest difference between the two films is that Francis was able to do something that the first film struggled with. Francis had no problem capturing the emotional moments that took place within the film. When Roo was shot in the original, it wasn’t nearly as powerful as it should have been. Catching Fire had real emotion to it and while some of it lies with the actors, a lot of it also lies within the hands of Francis. Just his capturing of the actors facial reactions during powerful scenes were a step above the previous entry. It should also be noted that the film’s pacing is a lot better this go around and some of the shots are simply stunning to the eye.
In conclusion, Catching Fire left me feeling excited for what was next to come in this franchise The film as a whole exceeds the original on all levels and works well on building the original characters while managing to add a bunch of new ones into the mix. I found the story to contain multiple layers that showcased political and social commentary which was surprisingly deep for a book series that is targeted towards young adults. I think the Hunger Games will be a film franchise that will only get better as each new entry surfaces and I for one will be rooting for Katniss and hoping that the odds will always be in her favor.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a 9 out of 10.