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“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is an Excellent Second Chapter

November 25, 2013

By John Corrado

Catching Fire PosterAs Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) deliver a victory speech in District 11, they give their thanks to the fallen Tributes.  An elderly man in the crowd whistles those haunting four notes of the Mockingjay call, and raises his hand in the air to give them the iconic three fingered salute.  The guards pull him out of the crowd and drag him onstage, shooting him point blank in the back of the head.

This is the first burst of real violence and one of the most stirring moments in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, a small act of solidarity against the Capital that is met with brutality, leading to the rumblings of an even bigger uprising.  This excellent second chapter in the blockbuster franchise opened on Friday, and brought in a record breaking $161 million over the weekend.

A year after triumphing together in the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are facing a new kind kind of threat.  Not only has their story of romance captured the attention of millions, but has also given people a sense of hope, inspiring those living in poverty across the Districts to start fighting back against the affluent Capitol of Panem.  This revolution follows them as they leave District 12 with their mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and organizer Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), embarking on their mandatory Victor’s Tour and evoking small acts of protest everywhere they go.

The Capitol fights back and the corrupt President Snow (Donald Sutherland) gets the ultimate revenge against them with the decision to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Hunger Games by throwing 24 previous winners back into the arena.  Katniss and Peeta are chosen at the reaping as the representatives for District 12, fighting alongside previous winners including the playboy Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and the rebellious Jahanna Mason (Jena Malone).  The arena for the games is a tropical island designed by Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), offering a brutal and disturbing battlefield filled with elaborate death traps.

From the innocent people who are tortured and killed for any small acts of protest against the oppressive Capitol, to the ways that they try to work together in the arena and comfort the dying, we can see the sparks of the oncoming revolution starting to burn even brighter.  Francis Lawrence directs with a clear eye for the visuals, as the excellent cinematography shows us the full scope of this impressively designed world.  This series and these films don’t behave like your typical blockbuster, offering something much more thought provoking and resonant than many of the movies that sit atop the box office.

I loved what director Gary Ross brought to the first Hunger Games back in March of 2012, and the film even found a spot on my top ten list for last year.  Although Catching Fire arguably doesn’t surpass the incredibly high bar that was set by the first instalment, this is absolutely a worthy follow up that does an excellent job of continuing the story and setting the stage for things to come.  The fact that a few small details have been left out from the book just proves why they are making the right decision to split the final novel Mockingjay into two parts, set for release in 2014 and 2015.  This is a fascinating world that Suzanne Collins has created, and the entire cast continues to do justice to the intricacies of these complex characters.

This is her first big role since winning an Oscar for her brilliant performance in Silver Linings Playbook, and Jennifer Lawrence continues to prove herself as one of the best actors of this generation.  It’s become clear by this point that she is a natural fit for the role of Katniss.  Josh Hutcherson is also quite good with a much bigger role this time around, and we really get a sense of just how much his character has matured after the events of the first film.  Woody Harrelson continues to be a standout of the uniformly strong supporting cast, with Stanley Tucci as the host of the televised event and Elizabeth Banks turning in another pair of wonderfully flamboyant performances.

This very much feels like a second chapter, and I mean that in the best possible way, providing an immensely satisfying continuation of where the first film left off, while leaving us genuinely excited for the next two instalments.  Now bring on the revolution of Mockingjay, because The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is excellent.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 26, 2013 11:10 am

    Good review John. The type of movie you can literally bring any type of person to, and they’ll most likely find a way to enjoy themselves. Whether it be through the story, acting, social commentary, action, or anything else.

    Like

    • November 26, 2013 1:03 pm

      Totally agree – that’s why this is going to end up being one of the biggest movies of the year!

      Thanks for your kind comment! 🙂

      -John

      Like

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