[FILM] The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

It seems as though the world and his ma have been reviewing Catching Fire in a frenzy of superlatives and JLaw pics. I’m afraid I’ll be no different as today I did exactly what I claimed I would do in yesterday’s Sunday Spew; I bunked off work this afternoon and went to the cinema. I shared the theater with a small team of truant teens who were obviously on the hop from school (I can’t judge) and apart from us, the gigantic main screen of the oldschool Savoy was relatively empty. This enabled me to choose the perfect row and perfect seat for my optimum enjoyment of the flick and I quickly settled in with my smuggled Smokey Mountain Whopper burger from BK (it was awesome) and a favourite ice-cold canned beverage. This was a non-alcoholic canned beverage by the way, I might be uncouth enough to smuggle in take-away Burger King in my handbag but I’m not that bad.

Anyway, it was a thoroughly peaceful experience and I resolved to see movies by myself more frequently in the future. I recalled the last time I’d seen a film alone. Angela’s Ashes. That was a depressing experience. I think that was what put me off attending alone for so many years. So I kicked back, relaxed, persevered through only one attack of the guilties as I thought of how awful I was to abandon my work post (especially when I realised the runtime was nearly two and a half hours, that sure was a long “appointment” I had) and prepared to take in the visual feast that was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Catching Fire Poster

And it really did look amazing. From the cold and grey shots of Victor’s Village, to the rich splendour of the capital, and finishing with a lush green world that would be the setting for the 75th Hunger Games. In every shot and every example of well-implemented CGI it was obvious that director Francis Lawrence’s budget was a damn sight more generous than his predecessor’s. The sequel escaped from that “confined” feeling I thought the franchise suffered from in the first and introduced us to plenty of new scenes for our eyes, ears and minds to wonder over.

I Am Legend and Constantine director Lawrence, I felt, did an excellent job with what he had here. The pacing was spot on in my opinion, and I know some would disagree as this is a long movie and may appear stretched at parts, but I think his approach was perfect. Sticking with a very true to original content adaptation, the atmosphere and feeling of Catching Fire was well constructed. You could feel the discontent and rising tide of rebellion from the people grow in a gradual and natural progression, culminating in a completely believable and understandable mutiny for the climax.

That really is an unfortunate looking salute.

That really is an unfortunate looking salute.

Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) returns as District 12 heroine and 74th Hunger Games victor Katniss Everdeen. She, along with Josh Hutcherson (Red Dawn) as Peeta Mellark, have been forced to compete yet again by Panem’s President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in another games, this one designed with the sole purpose of destroying Katniss and quelling the potential rebellion she has become the poster-child for. There they’re joined by the new faces of the victors from previous years, Sam Claflin (Snow White and The Hunstman) as Finnick Odair, Jena Malone (Hatfields & McCoys) as the wonderfully mouthy Johanna Mason and Jeffrey Wright (Boardwalk Empire) as the genius Beetee among them. Philip Seymour Hoffman (Moneyball) joins the fun as Plutarch Heavensbee, the latest Games Master.

Jennifer Lawrence puts in a good performance, as we’d expect from her, and she does a good job with Katniss’ character developmental journey from loyal, family-oriented girl to a fierce, determined young woman, who is beginning to recognise who her true enemies are. Hutcherson as Peeta has another okay run. I have to be honest, though he is always presented as a genuinely lovely individual in both the written and film versions of The Hunger Games, I always found Peeta to be a bit gormless. Their performances together have evolved in Catching Fire though, and toward the end I could somewhat understand how Katniss would develop feelings and strong affections for Peeta, who has been her only constant throughout these horrible games ordeals. Still though, no sizzle.

Love Triangle... Yawn.

Love Triangle… Yawn.

Young Liam Hemsworth (The Expendables 2) provides a bit more chemistry in the small screen time he has, but I can’t help but view both Gale and Peeta as plot devices for Katniss at this half-way point of the series and a little shoe-horned requisite romance for the female protagonist.

Woody Harrelson (Zombieland) returns as lushy Haymitch but again, not much to see here. On the other hand Elizabeth Banks (Zack and Miri Make a Porno) as Effie Trinket delighted me to no end and I found myself wanting to see more of her. Lenny Kravitz as the ever-supportive designer Cinna adequately provided me with a scene I’ve been waiting to see since I’d read of the sequel plans, and Stanley Tucci as impossibly charming and clueless presenter Caesar Flickerman was, as always, an entertaining and absolute joy.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was a welcome surprise cast member for me, as he lends his expertise and gives this film the cred that it definitely deserves. In particular his scenes with Donald Sutherland’s President Snow had me in an awed reverie as the two filled the screen and conversed in such a naturally sinister way. The two seasoned veterans played their roles to a standard you would expect, and did an excellent job of reeling me in.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire isn’t your usual Young Adult fare. It suffers from one or two flaws this genre is littered with, but on the whole Catching Fire is a far superior, more adult film when compared to The Hunger Games, as we see the young characters we recognise from the first film grow into the people that could potentially help shape a new world. We see Katniss begin to believe in the power she could wield and we wonder if The Mockingjay has finally spread her wings.

CA-CAW!

CA-CAW!

A sequel that surpasses the original, Catching Fire is well worth a watch for fans of The Hunger Games film as well as the book series. While it’s nowhere near my movie of the year, nor worth full marks, it was certainly enjoyable and one I would definitely recommend.

IMDB Rating: 8.3
Do I agree?: I’ll give it a nice, round 8. On the proviso that everyone stops comparing it to The Empire Strikes Back.

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Categories: Film, Review

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87 replies

  1. Kudos to you for seeing this by yourself :)
    I get all kinds of weird looks when I tell people I go by myself sometimes to see movies…F#$K THAT! When you wanna go see a movie, go see it! Doesn’t have to be with a big group of people or on some hot date, just go see it :P
    Now that I’m done preaching, I need to look up showtimes so I can go watch this with my hot date…Fruit Ninja! :o (I play Fruit Ninja whilst I wait for the previews to start…Angry Birds isn’t bad either)

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    • Cheers Matt I really enjoyed the experience, I can see why you have no problem going alone. I’ll definitely do it again. It was nice to take a bit of a break from work too.

      Haha nice tip with Fruit Ninja! I played Candy Crush myself but I’ve been stuck on a level for nearly a week now so I’ll give Fruit Ninja a go. Come back and tell me what you think of Catching Fire!

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  2. I got a feeling that I am going to love this movie; releases here next weekend – lets see :)
    Jennifer Lawrence and her performance, to be trusted as expected :D

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  3. Do you know how much trans fat there is in a BK Smokey Mountain Whopper? Well, let me tell you that I don’t know either and now I’m hungry.

    For an old guy, I really enjoyed The Hunger Games. Since the consensus appears to be that Catching Fire is a step up, I’m sure that I’m going to enjoy it even more.

    I actually liked Woody’s character in The Hunger Games and was looking forward to seeing him again in this one. I know he’s only a minor supporting character, but he’s close to my age so his character is part of the link that hooks me in.

    I love Jennifer Lawrence. I think that she’s destined to join the ranks of really great actors. I hope that she breaks out of the sci-fi/fantasy realm a bit more. She did great in X-men First Class and and the Hunger Games, but I’d like to see more performances like Winter’s Bone and Silver LInings Playbook. I’m looking forward to seeing her in Serena.

    Great Review!!

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    • You will like this one too, JF. I loved the Haymitch character and how Harrelson plays him too but he doesn’t have much to do in this (that will soon change) except for a few well-delivered snarky remarks.

      Agreed about Ms Lawrence, I’ve been rating her more and more every time I see her. I absolutely love her as Mystique, really looking forward to seeing her in action as my favourite blue mutant in the next X-Men installment. And Serena!

      Cheers mate, let me know if you catch this in the cinema!

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      • Saw it this afternoon, making me officially the last person in the industrialized world to see it. I give it an 8.5. I’m debating whether to name the next one Jennifer or Katniss. (inside joke)

        If I ever become outrageously wealthy (don’t laugh, I buy an occasional lottery ticket) and make a movie, Jennifer Lawrence is my pick to play Rachel or maybe the younger version of Becca.

        Can’t wait for the next movie.

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  4. Smuggling a BK burger is not as bad, I’ve done it with Wendy’s…and I once saw people smuggle in 3 pizzas covered in tin-foil inside a backpack, that my friend is another level :)

    I’m glad the movie evolves from the hunger games, which I liked (as the competitors seemed straight out of a D&D party). I’ll probably go see it this week, but Thor 2 comes first :)

    I’m not surprised you felt Peeta to be a bit dull, I thought the same in the 1st one, and I wasn’t expecting anything different from the 2nd…But I’m sure I’ll have some more disparaging things to say about that performance once I see it hahahaha

    Loved the review!

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    • Pizza in the cinema! :o That’s a great idea!

      Yes, yes, Thor first. Then Hunger Games.

      Looking forward as always to reading your disparaging thoughts! :D Hehe!

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      • Saw it last night! If I agree with 99.99% of everything you said about the film, should I write my own review or just reblog yours? what do you think?

        As for my disparaging thoughts on Peeta, here it is: Josh Hutcherson, is a horrendous actor, with the emotional range of a teaspoon. Star Wars Prequels’ Hayden Christensen deserves an Oscar in comparison…He’s just too damn dull, soulless and uninteresting. Switch him and the guy playing Gale and Peeta gets a soul-boost!

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        • Initially I was torn between thinking that the character is just a total snooze-fest, and also wondering if Hutcherson is just baaad. Perhaps it’s a combination of both! And LOL @ the Hayden Christensen comment! Poor Anakin. :D

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  5. This is the first review I’ve read for Catching Fire. I appreciate your restraint with the JLaw pics … no wait I want more! ;)

    I haven’t watched this movie yet but I thought the book was really good. One thing I’m looking forward to is seeing the rest of Pandem, you know outside of the arena, because I felt the first movie didn’t give a great sense of what the world is really like.

    I also like Effie (from what I saw in the first movie) and was surprised to learn the actress is Elizabeth Banks. I didn’t know she could act and transform herself into someone unrecognisable.

    I also thought the way Peeta is portrayed in the movie is really bland. Not that he’s much more interesting in the books but he’s supposed to be able to turn on the charm and win over an audience.

    This is one of the few YA series that I can get into. Great review!

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    • Totally agree, Elizabeth Banks is completely unrecognisable in this role, she plays Effie fantastically. Her mannerisms, gait, everything – perfect.

      Yes… bland Peeta the bread man. Not saying Gale is developed more either, they both just exist to love Katniss and that just makes them boring shells of characters.

      Thanks for reading mate! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, it feels “bigger” with so many elements from the first cranked up to eleven.

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  6. Nice post :) and I’d agree that this is a worthy follow-up. My main criticism was that it feels incomplete, but this tends to be an issue with the middle half of all trilogies! I’m desperate to see Gravity but everyone I know has already seen it, so I’m tempted to do a solo cinema experience myself. I’ve only done it once before years ago…

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    • Do it! I was surprised by how enjoyable I found it. I was quite comfortable. To make things easier you could go during the day so you’re not subjected to couples or groups. I went around lunchtime and it was perfect.

      Gravity is definitely one to see on the big screen!

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  7. Great review, I agree with you in the sense that ‘Catching Fire’ was much better than the original ‘Hunger Games,’ I’m eagerly looking forward to the last two films after this great effort!

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  8. I’m looking forward to watching this one after reading your review. I read the books and absolutely enjoyed them. Thankfully I did so on my Kindle and didn’t get judging stares for reading juvi fiction. But you’re right. This is a very adult story and it translates well to all ages.

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one who sneaks in food to the theatre. I might be more willing to buy food and snacks there if they didn’t insist tripling the prices. Geez!

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    • Exactly! How much for a small bag of popcorn and a coke!? Robbery. Ridiculous mark up. I’m told though that the concessions are where the theaters make the majority of their profit. That doesn’t surprise me at all.

      Yes, for a YA series it deals with some very adult concepts. I still read it on my Kindle though, just like yourself. ;) Thanks for stopping by and for the comment!

      Like

  9. I’m surprised at the number of critics that in prasing this film have decided to shit all over the first one for the constraints of its “low budget”. The Hunger Games didn’t have a low budget, and it was a well-thought out film that was developed by Gary Ross and the author of the books.

    A lot of thought was put into it, and the shaky-cam/reportage style suited it (i thought),and for a viewer like me (never have read the books, and at a fair remove from the target demographic) I thought the film definitely worked. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it, but i thought it was really very good, so I’m curious about the follow-up. Based upon your review, I’ll definitely be checking it out.

    Philip Seymour Hoffman and Donald Sutherland in a scene together? Bring it.

    And going to the Savoy in the afternoon on your own? Brilliant. The only way to see a film, frankly.

    One last thing: can we have a moratorium on these odd contractions of celebrities’ names? Unless we’re all going to get in on the act, in which case you can call me NiMac. ;)

    Like

    • Regarding the budget, that’s a good point. I’ve noticed that too. I think the salient point they’re trying to make there might not necessarily be that The Hunger Games had a low budget, but rather how obvious it is that Catching Fire had a bigger one.

      That also ties in with your “shaky-cam” point. Two different directors, two different films, two different takes. I agree that in many respects the approach that was taken worked effectively for the first one, but I think overall the approach taken in the sequel was more to my preference. But then, that’s just opinion.

      Being a fan of the first one I definitely do think you’ll very much enjoy this. I’ve come across one other review that stated he preferred the first film, for similar reasons that you yourself pointed out. I’ll be very curious to learn what you think!

      Hoffman and Sutherland – probably one of the biggest highlights for me.

      I lurved going on the hop and spending an afternoon in the Savoy. Think I might make it a monthly event. ;)

      Ugh, the celebrity names. After JLo and Brangelina and all of that nonsense I think I finally accepted defeat. I’d support an all out ban though. Having said that, I like NiMac, it has a pleasant ring to it…

      You will now be NiMac forevermore.

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      • not sure how happy i am about that ;)

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      • i probably won’t get to see it for a while, but i’ll post a review when i do. i imagine being in the savoy at lunchtime you aren’t distracted by mobile phones. where did you tell your boss you were off to? Not sure about the NiMac thing (fear I may have unleashed something I will regret). keep up the reviews; they’re great.

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        • That name makes you an instant Z-Lister! NiMac for I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here 2014! Or Celebrity Apprentice perhaps. ;D

          I don’t have a very visible boss, so I just told my co-workers that I had an “appointment”. They assumed I meant a doctors appointment… I didn’t correct them. Mwahaha.

          Thanks Niall, delighted you stopped by.

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          • i finally saw this. I didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as the first one. I wasn’t engaged in the story at all, and at several points I was looking at my watch, which is a shame (the world is convincingly portrayed, and the sense of anger and rebellion and repression and fascist overtones are all there, but it didn’t capitalise enough on that, for me anyway)

            I appreciate this is the middle of a trilogy, and so has to set up stuff for the third (and fourth) movies, but I was still disappointed, as I really did enjoy the first one. Acting was all good, and i do appreciate that they can get big actors like Philip Seymour Hoffman (RIP) and Amanda Plummer and Jeffrey Lewis to come in and actually ACT, not just slum it for a pay cheque, but not even the presence of all those great thesps could salvage it for me. Honestly, I don’t remember much about it, but I can still vividly recall scenes from the first one. I do look forward, though, to the finale.

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  10. Alright V…Why are you not writing reviews for some major magazine or newspaper or something yet. You are really the only person I read the movie reviews from anymore. Its the most straightforward and useful review I think I ever found… anywhere!

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    • What a lovely compliment! High praise indeed, thank you :). As much as I’d like to make a living doing reviews I don’t think my posts would fit in those little entertainment columns! ;D Thanks for the read!

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  11. I agree with Robertsonwrites. You really aught to be writing for a major press. I don’t read too many other reviews,except yours, ThinkGeek and IO9. I can’t wait to see this on Friday along with Thor. Have you seen that one yet?

    Great blog post as always!

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  12. Shoo, awesome review dude. These comments are correct, you should be writing for something way bigger but with that said, I’m glad you’re on our dream team.

    Debz and I enjoyed the first hunger games, we and we are really looking forward to this. Compared to the books, I think for the first time in a long time, the movie adaptions are better where the books just felt a little, I don’t know childish, maybe…still good though, just seems more fleshed out in a movie media

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  13. Anyone not having the candy floss stuck to their scalp eaten by butterflies raise your hand.

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  14. I’m looking forward to it! I really enjoyed the first for what it was, which is probably because I hadn’t read the books. And Jennifer Lawrence wins me over every time she appears in public. So, it’s a win win for me, even if it’s as good as the original. Also, this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eT7nD02Im5E

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  15. Great review! Totally agree with what you’ve said & your rating. :-) I think this was a great adaptation & can’t wait to see how the hell they’re going to make a decent movie(s) out of that final book…

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    • Thanks mate! Yes, I did find myself wondering wtf they’re planning to do with the last book. The weakest of the three by far. And splitting it into two? How true to original can they stay with it? I’m hoping they actually take a bit of creative license. I was discussing this with a fellow blogger during the week and she told me that the director of Catching Fire is on board for the next one, and also that they’re bringing in Suzanne Collins to help with the script. I hold out some hope… We shall see!

      Like

  16. Hello there! Just wanted to let you know that I’ve nominated you for the Sunshine Award! http://chronicchronicler.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/you-are-my-sunshine-award/

    Like

  17. I hated the first movie and I’m going to be smart and wait for a dvd release this time around. That being said this is for you: http://drakulus.com/2013/12/02/the-sunshine-award-and-the-wordpress-family-award/

    Like

  18. Good Review :D

    It was a great film, really liked it a lot. Thought it was a fantastic improvement over the first, and I cannot wait for the next one, especially after that ending :D

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  19. Thanks for supporting my blog, nominated you for an award too [http://wp.me/P1kGTI-ty] Congrats!

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  20. This was great. And it’s also great to know I’m not the only one who smuggles BK in to the cinema. And the irony of watching ‘The Hunger Games’ while eating a burger was not lost on me :)

    Like

  21. Reblogged this on The Mental Attic and commented:
    I was going to write my own review, but V already did an incomparable job with it. So I’ll just blatantly rip…I mean, I’ll reblog her stuff!
    The only thing I’d say and need to impress on you is HOW BAD Josh Hutcherson’s acting is…it’s soulless!

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) Review | Tim's Film Reviews
  2. [NEWS] The Monday Spew (2nd December 2013) « The Verbal Spew Review
  3. Attic Cleanup 15-12-2013 | The Mental Attic
  4. Six Months Of Spew! « The Verbal Spew Review

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