When I watched the first The Hunger Games film, I had absolutely no preconceived notions of what to expect from the franchise; it was an entirely new, unfamiliar entity to me. Therefore, the next instalment in the series – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – is viewed in a different light to the first. I was a convert, a fan of the franchise with ideas of what to expect and what I wanted from the movie and Catching Fire met my expectations… mostly.
I say mostly because The Hunger Games: Catching Fire spends the entirety of its opening half following the fallout from the first film. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) visits Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) at her home in District 12. He warns that her actions have incited rumblings of revolution and that, in order to ensure the safety of her family and friends from his wrath, she must commit to her charade of a romance with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) as they embark on the Victor’s Tour. The following gives the audience a better understanding of the horrid political system that is at play in this universe. It’s both utterly fascinating and mildly frightening to watch with the actors and film-makers both helping to create a realistic, dystopian world. However, no matter how interesting this world may be, the film spends too much time setting the scene and things do begin to drag. That is where Catching Fire’s big, well-advertised twist comes into play.
As a means of quelling the fire of revolution that Katniss and her mockingjay have become a symbol for, Snow and his new gamemaker – Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) – decide that in order to celebrate the 75th Hunger Games, the tributes will be selected only from previous winners. This means that Katniss and Peeta are going back in. From here, things pick up considerably and the tension leading up the games is infectious, oozing through the screen at all times. When the games get under way, the action is as visceral, thrilling and inventive as ever; the combatants and audience alike rarely get a chance to breath from the moment the klaxon sounds.
But once that breath can be taken, and the film reaches its climax, it all ends extremely abruptly. I understand the need for a cliffhanger as we approach the conclusion of the series but it still felt like there should have been another scene or two before the credits began to roll.
Jennifer Lawrence continues to shine since her ascension to Hollywood’s mountain top. Her brilliant delivery of lines, range of emotion and near-flawless performing is on show once again as she brings Katniss Everdeen to life. It’s impressive the diversity of roles that she can step into and impress in.
The rest of the cast are excellent too. Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson all shine within what is an imposingly star-studded cast. Some new additions also stake their own claims, particularly Jena Malone – who plays former victor Johanna Mason – who is quite terrifying. Once again, the jewel of the supporting cast is Stanley Tucci as the enigmatic, delightfully colourful and smile-inducing Caesar Flickerman.
Another success that carries on from the first film is just how aesthetically astounding Catching Fire is at all times. The desolate slums of the lower districts create stark contrasts to the unrestrained flamboyance of the Capitol. The fashion on display – especially the clothing, hair and make-up of Banks’ Effie Trinket – is both hysterical and quite breathtaking. And the arena in which The Hunger Games take place is gorgeous; a fitting setting for such a monumental event.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will not disappoint fans of the series. The action and drama of Panem’s most brutal and shocking tradition is just as exciting as it was before once it gets going. And while it may take a while before it does indeed get going, it’s certainly worth waiting for; this is not one to miss.