Hunger Games: Catching Fire Film Review

Hunger Games: Catching Fire Film Review

Catching Fire opens with a calm shot of the heroine, Katniss Everdeen, looking serenely out at the wilderness. The film is slow to pull her back into the hectic world of the Capital and the Hunger Games, but once it does, it doesn’t lose traction.

The film stays in Panem longer than expected, and it’s nearly forty minutes in before Katniss and Peeta are called back into the Hunger Games, this time for the historic Quarter Quell. This is where the movie begins to pick up, and the audience gets to play around with new characters. This film improves on the last with its excellent casting, which includes established and new faces. First introduced is Plutarch Heavensbee, played by the always-fantastic Philip Seymour-Hoffman, the newly-appointed ringleader of the games.

The second installment of the film series finds Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence, fresh out of the Hunger Games and thrust into the victory tour through Panem. Accompanied by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), she is given a new task by Panem’s President Snow (Donald Sutherland): to convince citizens that she and Peeta are madly, tragically in love – all to pacify the growing unrest in Panem.

Training for the games allows Katniss and the audience to meet the newest contestants, and Jena Malone as Joanna Mason steals nearly every scene she’s in. And then there is Finnick Odair, played by rising star Sam Claflin, as charming on screen as in the books.

The film is so busy trying to build the convincing world of Panem that it sometimes forgets about the people living there. Katniss is again at the center of a love triangle between hunky hunting buddy Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and bakery boy Peeta. The scenes between Katniss and Gale are few, and the charisma between the two characters is almost non-existent. The film does a much better job throwing Katniss against her enemies than her potential romantic interests, but perhaps this is a result of her hunting instinct.

As for the other couple, it is established early on that Peeta has realized that Katniss was only playing up their romance for the cameras. Still, the audience is still pushed into routing for the two.

This film was wonderfully executed all the way through, but it happened to nail certain scenes. For some reason, I found myself tearing up when Effie Trinket (played by Elizabeth Banks) says goodbye to Katniss and Peeta before they enter the games. It could have been very easy for the films to overlook Effie’s character as an avatar of the Capital, but instead the script wisely stays true to the book by giving her dimension.

Fans of the books will understand why Katniss is hesitant to feed the growing unrest in Panem, that despite recognizing injustice, all this girl wants to do is protect her family. Catching Fire sticks with this narrative as well, and it is only in the final scene that the audience gets really excited for the next film. I won’t spoil it, but the director made the excellent decision to trust his lead actress to carry the audience over into the next phase for Katniss and the Hunger Games. After this film, I can’t wait for the next.