This review contains spoilers to the first Hunger Games film, and by extension book.
Spoiler alert! Katniss and Peeta survived the Hunger Games by threatening to eat poisonous berries!
Catching Fire is the 2nd entry into the Hunger Games trilogy (or Quadrilogy, if we’re going by the movies). Katniss and Peeta survived the Hunger Games where children killed each other for the amusement of the people by pretending they were in love. President Snowman decided that when the two defied the rules, they became a threat to the security of the empire’s power.
Catching Fire properly continues the story of the Hunger Games without rehashing the story, like many sequels do. It actually goes beyond the kids killing kids and makes it a battle, with Katniss as a symbol of hope against the dystopian empire.
This film’s quality is an improvement about the first one. Since most of the characters have been established, it allows the audience to fall right into the story. One of my largest issues with the first film was the slow pacing. This film is far more brisk. The acting is strong too. Jennifer Lawrence, as expected, does a good job, and is proving herself to be a promising up and coming star. Unfortunately, Liam Hemsworth is also in this film, and his delivery is kind of bland, and unfortunately, he starts to introduce a love triangle into the series, which is not cool with me. Enemy at the Gates and the First season of Korra were almost ruined for me by that dreadful concept.
Woody Harrelson, as with every film he’s in, is fun to watch, The rest of the cast does great as well, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, and the guy who plays Cinna are especially good. The two main villains of this film, President Snow and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, portrayed by Donald Sutherland and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, both are far more threatening than the Heavy in the first film, managing to pretty dastardly in their line deliveries and evil plans. Though one issue with the film is that the empire is depicted as so cartoonishly evil, it’s hilarious. The best part is where a stormtrooper commander was whipping Gale (Hemsworth), and he spoke in a voice you’d associate with the Kurgan from Highlander or a cartoon villain.
Though if there is something to complain about, there is some dialogue that just feels so unnatural. For example, the first time Katniss meets Phillip Seymour Hoffman at a Gatsby party hosted by President Snowman, they have an exchange, where PSH tells Katniss he became the new guy running the Hunger Games, and when she asked why, he responded with “Ambition”. That line bugged me because that’s not how one describes themselves, that’s how someone else describes them.
Anyway, the cinematography is good too, with lots of nice pretty, yet living in and gritty sets. The Hunger Games section of the story is also much better than the first one, more dramatic, with improved characters whose deaths mean more than in the first story. Notably, there is a lot less shaky cam as well, which was an issue with the first film, since by design, it’s supposed an R rating just based on content. However, studios need it to be PG-13, so when there is a brutal action scene, the cameraman gets Parkinson’s. There’s less of that here. It’s much more clear what’s going on in action scenes now.
The reality TV satire aspect, which was always one of my favorite parts of the first film, is even more prominent here, with Katniss being a superstar who has to pretend she’s in love with Peeta. It really is a nice look at how an empire would use celebrities to distract their population from real issues, and how stupid the people are for letting that be such a big thing on their lives. There’s also other symbolism in this film, like about rich people, and birds.
I do not wish to give away the one twist the ending has, but it’s a pleasant surprise (unless you’re a person who has read the books, in which case, you will not be surprised at all). This is overall an enjoyable film. Perhaps not exactly for me, but I find it pretty good, and an improvement over the first.
Also, this film has CGI Mandrills and malevolent poison gas. They are the true masterminds of the series. Beware.