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.
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.
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.
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.
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.