Undoubtedly one of the biggest releases of 2013, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the second entry in The Hunger Games franchise. It is another example of a successful series of books being adapted for the big screen.
Catching Fire starts with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) about to embark on the victory tour after winning the 74th Hunger Games the year before.
All is not well though when President Snow (Donald Sutherland) reveals to Katniss that her and Peeta’s actions to defy the Capitol and win the Hunger Games have started a string of rebellions in the Districts.
Snow wants Katniss and Peeta to convince everybody that their love for each other is real and not just a way to start an uprising. If they don’t, he will have their families and close friends, including Gale (Liam Hemsworth), from District 12 killed.
Fearing that past victors will be inspired by Katniss, Snow reveals that the 75th Hunger Games will be made up of past victors from each District. Snow enlists new game maker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to create an even tougher arena for the tributes to do battle in.
Katniss and Peeta find themselves competing again, but this time they are not going up against younger tributes; instead they must compete in the Hunger Games against older and more experienced tributes.
I am glad to say that Catching Fire is bigger and better than its predecessor in every way. While I enjoyed the first film, it didn’t blow me away like it did some people. Catching Fire didn’t either, but I found it a more enjoyable experience than The Hunger Games.
The first film, while obviously having dark undertones, felt like a kids’ film. Catching Fire shows that the franchise is growing up. It is not children fighting in the Hunger Games this time round, it is adults. This allows the film to go darker and enabled me to take it more seriously.
The performances of Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson reflect this as well. Not only do we see their characters mature throughout Catching Fire, we see them maturing as actors. Jennifer Lawrence already has an Academy Award for Best Actress under her belt and I am sure that she will be nominated for that award again and again in her career. She gives a commanding performance in Catching Fire and really makes you root for Katniss in her fight against the Capitol.
Other performances that stood out come from Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, the commentator who could light up the screen with his teeth alone, Elizabeth Banks as eccentric chaperone Effie Trinket and Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, a past victor and mentor to Katniss and Peeta.
Catching Fire just seemed to be much more visually appealing as well. The CGI improvements have helped and aids the film in feeling less childish.
One thing that I did find distracting once again was the costumes and make-up of some of the characters. I know that is how Suzanne Collins wrote her characters but I just couldn’t get over what some of them looked like.
One of my favourite things about the film was the ending. The Hunger Games has a massive fan base and I can imagine many of them were screaming in anticipation for next year as the screen cut to black. The next installment, Mockingjay, is scheduled to be released in two parts, the first on November 21, 2014. I have never read the books but even I was sitting there thinking to myself that I want to see what’s going to happen next.
‘Every revolution begins with a spark’ reads the tagline for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Where the spark was missing in its predecessor, Catching Fire more than makes up for it. It just seems to have more energy and sets the franchise up for an epic conclusion that you may or may not know.
(Editor’s note: if available in your area, see this movie in I-Max. It was worth the extra I paid for the ticket.)