The Hunger Games Catching Fire Review

(The first part of this review is spoiler-free, Catching Fire spoilers take place in the latter half of this piece.)

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The Hunger Games Catching Fire review

Catching Fire is the sequel to the 2012 movie, The Hunger Games.  It's also the film adaptation of the 2nd book in the trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. (book review)

It stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

It's directed by Francis Lawrence (Water for Elephants, I am Legend, Constantine), rated PG-13 and has a run time of 146 minutes.

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In the first movie we were introduced to the world of Panem, where the Capitol forces their society to offer up young tributes to participate in The Hunger Games, a match to the death.  It's a televised fight to the death in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to compete.  To the death, leaving 1 of the 24 contestants  alive as the victor.

But Katniss (Lawrence) pulls a fast one, forcing the govt. of Panem to allow two victors.

Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games Catching Fire, a review

Catching Fire takes place a year after those events, where Katniss and Peeta (Hutcherson) are on the victory tour, leading up to the 75th Hunger Games.  But President Snow (Sutherland), whose pissed at the strife that Katniss's actions caused, wants to eliminate her.

So he and his new game master, Plutarch Heavensbee (HOffman) plot to pull in past victors in this special game.  All designed to eliminate this pest, Everdeen.

And it goes from there.

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Director Lawrence pulls it off, bringing to the set, his experience with different genre of films, from the romantic to the action filled.  And for now, we can look forward to some consistency across the next two movies as he's slated to direct those also.

As far as sequels go, this ranks right up there with the best of them.  Though to be honest, unlike most movie sequels, this 2nd chapter was part of a planned out trilogy of books.  But still, it's refreshing to watch a sequel that is as good or maybe even a notch better than the original.

In the original, the movie fan was horrified to learn how this society operated, pitting teens and young children against each other, to the death.

Lawrence never misses a beat with her Kristen Stewart impersonation of being a dead-pan kind of young woman who has very little under the hood aside from what you see.

Which makes it hard for her (at first) to follow through on the act she started in the games, pretending to love Peeta.

Peeta (Hutcherson) delivers a wonderful kind of intelligent stoicism, laced with a keen understanding of what needs to be done, and... believe it or not, will deliver one of the funniest moments in the movie, and you won't even see it coming.

This time around we see more of President Snow and his inner aspirations, along with his conversations with the new game master Heavensbee (Hoffman), who replaced the last game master, who chose to stop breathing for his mistake in letting Katniss live through the games.

The complications of the three-way love story of Katniss, Peeta and Gale (Hemsworth) is complicated and simple, along with frustrating, all at once.

We also get more of Effie and her real inner feelings, despite the myriad of unique and colorful outfits she musters up throughout the story.

Catching Fire review, Stanley Tucci, Liam Hemsworth and Lenny Kravitz

And Cinna (Kravitz) does not disappoint, despite having less screen time than the last movie.

And when can you ever go wrong with Woody Harrelson being a smart and angry drunk who can really pull it together, when needed?

And Stanley Tucci was magic as the reality TV host, playing it big, super bright white teeth and all.

One other aspect we got a taste of, is the decadence of the Capitol.  Yes, we already knew this, but we're shown incontrovertible proof behind the glitzy domes and polished hallways, just how blind these people are to the world outside their own little sector or district.

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I hit up the 10:30 AM 2D screening of Catching Fire and the theater was surprisingly populated at about 50% full.  Obviously many folks are planning to see this movie, and they won't be making a mistake with such plans.

The action was mixed well into the story and there weren't any obvious gaps in story logic.  There are some great touching moments, along with more shock from this wicked society.

I'd give Catching Fire a popcorn 9/10 and I think it's well worth the bucks at the theater.

And kudos to the marketing department.  Despite the trailers out there, they're mixed well enough to not give up most details.

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Catching Fire (SPOILERS) Thoughts and Observations
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The Hunger Games Catching Fire Movie Review with Spoilers


During the movie, we get to fully understand Snow's motivations even to the point of letting Katniss know what he needs from her, and what she has to pretend to do to sell her pitch.

During the victory tour we come to learn how Katniss has motivated citizens of Panem to start to question the situation they're in.  And it's spreading throughout all of the districts.

It's bad enough that as soon as any citizen raises their hand in the three-finger salute that Katniss started, the security forces step up and execute the person, on the spot.  No matter what the age.

The middle act of the movie is pretty much setting up for the third act which is another battle dome, but there's a subtle twist that we don't see coming until the middle of the third act.

And it's great if you don't see it coming, and that is, in this case, the group of tributes are split up into two mindsets.

There are those who are there to play the game and kill everyone in sight, and there are those who are secretly aligned to protect Katniss at all costs.

It was cool to see that develop, despite the subtle layer of distrust Katniss had, not knowing that there was this huge plan going on, based upon what she represented to the unrest in Panem.

And oh, what an ending.  An ending I'm not giving up because if you haven't read the books, I think will be a worthy ending to The Hunger Games Catching Fire to experience unspoiled.

-Bruce

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Comments

  1. Nice review Bruce. Can't wait to see what these next few movies have in store for us, although it's going to take another year. Damn!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Dan. Yea... Mockingjay Pt 1 and 2 (2014, 2015) will definitely have something fun to chew on.

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  2. One of the aspects that makes Catching Fire stronger than its predecessor is that it possesses a more palpable sense of danger.
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