The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Reviews
The Hunger Games, the franchise on fire! After a hot reception from audiences in 2012, Lionsgate brings us back to the world of Panem and The Hunger Games with a sequel that goes right up there with The Empire Strikes Back and other sequels that are much better than their originals. The first games was the standard games up until the love story came into play. Now, they raise the stakes by having the climax of the first one send ripples of revolution through the nation. We open with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) hunting like she used to, and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) shows up like last time, being all cool and casual. He encourages her to shoot a turkey instead of discouraging her from shooting a deer like in the first movie, only this time, shooting an arrow causes a flashback to the games, and after a panic attack Gale pulls her back to the present. I must praise the way Jennifer Lawrence portrayed PTSD in this movie (Like Robert Downey Jr. did in Iron Man 3 earlier in 2013), because she gets it right without mocking the millions of real-life vets with real PTSD. After Gale goes to his new job in the mines, Katniss gets an unexpected visit from President Snow (Donald Sutherland), who's very unhappy with Katniss, and challenges her to convince him of her and Peeta's (Josh Hutcherson) love. After waking up Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) for the start of the victory tour, they're reunited with Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), and the rest of their prep team the book fleshed out and gave personality to (though at the party at the President's mansion, Effie clearly name checks Flavius and Octavia from the prep team, go back and you'll hear their names). After Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) introduces them on the Capitol feed, the tour begins, where Peeta tries to get to know Katniss better, fires of rebellion are kept contained (only so much), and ultimately, Katniss fails to convince Snow of her love for Peeta, initiating a chain of events that lead her and Peeta into a new arena with new (but familiar to Panem) tributes and new challenges. The new characters are developed as well as they're needed to be in the context, but the spotlight still belongs to the star-crossed lovers. The plot is coherent, but the movie is (again) a long one, full of detail, but it could have had a few things gutted to make it shorter. I didn't lose interest, but if it takes 80+ minutes to get to the titular event (The Hunger Games themselves), then you may be wasting time. Some events with whole book chapters got cut to glances and mentions, but otherwise, it was coherent. The visual was great as ever, and with a clearly larger budget and higher expectations, they delivered. The best part is Francis Lawrence kept a steady hand except for action, which was still easier to see than Gary Ross' "shake like there's no tomorrow" style. It may or may not have to do with the fact that instead of children, the tributes in the games are fully-grown adults, and the fact the MPAA has some level of standards for on-screen violence and its depiction, but I digress. James Newton Howard delivers the score worthy of the increasing drama in this installment, and there's a lot more comic relief to be found here, as well as swearing (as in, some of the seven you can't say on TV). The girl on fire's story truly ignites here, and we get a sense of heightened tension. Remember who the real victor is here: you, me, and anyone else who enjoys this improved sequel.
This is my second review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. To remind you how awesome this film is, the characters we met in the first movie are still relatable, despite their upbringing and situation: Katniss embodies the rebel-against-tyranny in us all, and Peetah is the guy-trying-to-escape-the-friend-zone in men and teenage boys alike. After the first film, we now have a reason to care about them, and for those tuning in for the first time, the struggles and relatability of these characters will have you caring about them, especially when you see Peetah trying to tighten his relationship with Katniss. Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence have great chemistry (and appropriate awkwardness). Shoutout also to Woody Harrelson's perfectly-disturbed Haymitch, and all the rest of the well-done acting all-around. Despite the rush of the first film to get to the actual games, the downhill turn this one takes is taking a little too long to get there, and therefore less action from our main heroes. While the plot is slightly similar to the first film, it is different enough to be exciting for both readers and viewers alike. The picture is better in this one than the last one, thanks to a higher budget, more production time, and a stable camera. That's right folks, the change in directing benefits us as viewers, because Francis Lawrence doesn't feel the need to jerk the camera where we don't, but understand in the last one, Gary Ross had to censor child v. child violence that is non-existant here. But enough about the first film, except for the recycling of some tunes in the soundtrack. Otherwise, James Newton Howard does a great job with the soundtrack, whether it's the powerful Capitol anthem, the sinister tune to build suspense used especially in the arena, or the lack therof to avoid distracting from what's happening. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a stronger installment in the series than the first one, despite the slower pace to the actual games. It's full of wit, humor, drama, romance, and of course, build-up to Mockingjay Part 1, which will only build to Part 2, or at least go in new directions. Mayby the studio greed is the real enemy, but the true ally is this glorious film. May the odds be ever in your favor to see this film!
They say the sequel is never as good as the original. Normally, I'd say something vulgar, but this is a family oriented review. The characters like Katniss, Peeta, Gale├├,┬ó├,├,┬Ž Haymich, President Snow, etc, that you've come to know since the first book's release, return in style, as newcomers like Finnick Odere, Joanna Mason, etc, enter the arena, I mean series in style. Jennifer Lawrence may not be a method actor like Daniel Day Lewis, but she is nearly a real-life Katniss. Woody Harrelson's Haymitch is funnier than ever. The plot of the book this is based on is generally kept intact, despite a few alterations I can't reveal (unless you like spoilers, but let's keep it spoiler free until it enters the public spoiler domain). Suzzane Collins does not help adapt this one, but Michael Arndt does a nice job. Let's just remember that somethings told by characters can be shown, and the POV is third person ominiscent in the movie, not first person Kaniss. The picture is much better than the first one, mostly since there's no frequent and unnecessary jerking the camera around for no good reason. It's an improvement because, while the first one had to censor the child-on-child violence, it was jerked in close ups. These are adults fighting adults (well 22 fully grown adults, because Peeta and Katniss are still 17 at this point, but still├├,┬ó├,├,┬Ž) James Newton Howard, while recycling some of the original tracks of the first movie, adds new tunes to this one, and manages to keep it exciting. Before I go, I just need to say: Lionsgate, if you're splitting Mockinjay into two parts, you'd better be accurate of events. May the odds be ever in your favor. Stay alive until next year.