Plot: Katniss has to try and keep the capitol happy to save her family, while deciding whether she wants to stop the coming revolution or join it.
Review: The Hunger Games has always been a weird franchise. Relying mostly on good characters and some smart ideas, the books were always lacking something, except MockingJay that book was lacking being good in any way. This was not helped by a terrible first outing that took out all the good emotions behind actions and the good characters to be replaced with shaky cams and bland boring stares. Luckily Catching Fire takes what was bad about the first movie and also the series at large and either replaces it or just makes it better. It’s the movie that they should have been making all this time.
The thing that sets or should set the Hunger Games apart from say a Twilight (I promise I won’t make this comparison again) or really any of the latest teen offering is the addition of theme. Not just a theme of love but themes of duty, celebrity, destiny and yes love are throw in here without feeling too full. Unlike the first outing, we get a sense of what happens in the capitol and the differences between the poor and the rich. We are constantly being reminded of what the stakes are and what people are willing to sacrifice for “freedom.” It’s these things that were missing in the first one and without these themes, we have nothing new. Luckily here it’s all front and center and it almost feels like we are entering this world for the first time. To be honest, this may be because we don’t have to be as introduced to this world but I just felt like you could see this without reading the books or even seeing the first film. Where the other film was mostly for fans.
Also the direction is much better. Francis Lawrence takes over because he is Jennifer’s dad. Okay, just kidding but what Lawrence is, is a more experienced and sadly more talented director. Like I said the shaky cam is gone and you can see why it doesn’t work. It felt like last time, the shaky cam was making up for the lack of action or tension. Here with the camera static, the actions and motives behind action have to bring tension and add emotions. It just works a lot better because we aren’t fighting to see what is on the screen. We can see it and that makes it that much more horrifying. Also the performances are better but we will talk about that more in a bit. I put it here because it’s important to note.
We all know Jennifer Lawrence is talented but the last one didn’t do her any favors. Here she gets to show more emotions than sad blank face so she actually wins our heart a bit more. We finally see the great character that was in the book and she shows more emotions without ever feeling forced. This movie proves all the hype is true for any non believers or anyone who won’t watch her more indie films. Josh Hutcherson again plays Peeta with a boyish charm that captures the spirit of the book. He is still the best part of the series and I wish he had more screen time. Although here sacrificing it for Katniss works. Also in the tradition of the last movie, the tributes are now more interesting or at least memorable as opposed to the books. Finnick is here and while I only remember he was a prostitute with a trident in the book, now he has a characterization and personality that the book was trying to shoot for. I enjoyed him a lot and think he helped round out the film. Jena Malone also shows up for a memorable role as another tribute. Most improved role goes to Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket. In the original, my thoughts were “why is she here” but now she again has more personality and is rounded out. She actual makes a unique character that stands out instead of blends in. The only one that doesn’t improve is Primrose, Katniss’ daughter, played by Willow Shields. She is just terrible here but I blame that more on the director working with what they had from the first movie. Shields looks the part but her line readings came off as laughable here. Again this is kudos to the director because the last movie had the same cast, the same talent, and came back with bland boring forgettable performances and now we get memorable characters that deserve to be in a series.
Yes Catching Fire is the Hunger Games at it’s best. The story of a girl that wants to do good with the bad situations and is constantly trying to find her way while others look to her. It’s worth watching and actually may make this series the classic that I think it could be.
But Mockingjay is going to need some major changes because Mockingjay suuuuuucks!
Trivia: Kristin Bell campaigned hard for the Jena Malone role.