The Hunger Games series is finally Catching Fire
While I was pleased with the first film, I felt it was enjoyable, but left me with my doubts to it being the leading film of a series. I believe there was some reservation about the series being a financial success and so it was approached cautiously. Thankfully the odds were in our favor and we can see the studio went all in this time around. There was no doubts about leaving issues and characters unresolved. Grappling with an unresolved element in the story is perfectly acceptable when you know it will be resolved in the next film. This was the biggest difference between these two films. The first felt overburdened with closing itself off in the event it would be a stand alone film. This film, carried none of that weight. Because of this freedom it was much more enjoyable. The characters were less wooden, and the environment felt much larger. Because of this, the dangers of the arena felt much more threatening, and the action was altogether more exciting.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire picks up a few months after the last film ended. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence ) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are preparing for a “Victor’s Tour” of the districts. The day they are to leave President Snow (Donald Sutherland) visits Katniss to persuade her to play her part to calm the uprising that is brewing in the districts. With their mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and their chaperone Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) they visit each district, eulogizing the fallen tributes, and leaving riots in their wake. It is then President Snow, and new Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) plan The Quarter Quell games where the tributes are all past victors. Before the games can open, the new tributes all have one last chance to sow seeds of discontent publicly with the unwitting help of the over enthusiastic television personality Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci).
The rich environment you find in a novel series such a these lends itself very well to film adaptation. However details will always be lost as the focus narrows to what can fit on screen. There are hints of this richer environment, such that I found myself wishing to know what was happening in the background rather than in the fore more than once. It wasn’t so much that the action or dialogue was uninteresting at those moments, it was just at times predictable. I can think of at least two exchanges I predicted the dialogue almost word for word. It is not at all because I read the books, I have not, it was because sometimes there is only so much to say. I can’t fault the writers for using dialogue that I would have used myself. Predictable or not, I drifted away at those times and came back having missed nothing, aside from wondering what was just out of frame.
The political and social commentary, and conflict was marvelously portrayed. Sutherland is always a fantastic villain with his subtle and understated performance. Even when his character is being anything but subtle and understated. Seeing many of the other districts this time around the understanding of this world is drawn into a harsh focus. The sense of social injustice is almost overwhelming at times. The film makes it abundantly clear why the games have been effective at quelling the uprising against the capitol for so many years. The repercussions for defiance are seen and felt harshly leaving the audience ready to scale the barricades. While I hoped for more exposition and explanation, I was satisfied, but not satiated.
I can give The Hunger Games: Catching Fire 8.5 out of 10 fallen tributes primarily due to fantastically executed character performances by an terrific ensemble cast.