The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (PG-13)

10 Stars

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a great sequel.

It’s incredibly rare that a second installment can be considered ‘good,’ let alone ‘great.’

A great sequel contributes a furthering and expansion of the narrative, evolving on the previous film’s themes and ideas, while maintaining suspense, thrills and compelling character interactions throughout.

I catch a lot of flack for finding The Hunger Games underwhelming.

The chariot promenade through the poorly animated stadium is painfully striking in contrast to the rest of the film, and ironically the scene in which she sets fire to her dress knocks down the whole movie a couple pegs.

Overall, I enjoy THG the First, but Catching Fire is a significantly better film.

The first suffers primarily from poor CGI. Catching Fire never once does.

This deserves the full five stars. I should have given it 4.5 since it’s PG-13, but I stand by my 5. The stakes are high and this is solid, thoughtful filmmaking. It’s as good as a PG-13 movie can be.

Obviously it’s helpful that the author, Suzanne Collins, wrote the awesome character names and brilliant plot beforehand. But it’s translated to the screen in a masterful fashion.

Catching Fire is easily worth your time. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading, I might spoil something below.

This sequel’s also the perfect example of what a stellar cast looks like.

Admittedly, Elizabeth Banks has been a favorite since Zach and Miri Make a Porno (one of the most underrated comedies of all time.) In the first Hunger Games one doesn’t think twice of Effie Trinket. Frankly I found her irritating.

Who’d have thought she’d make such a huge turnaround? She totally catches me by surprise midway through, and gets the tears flowing. Betty Banks plays such intriguing roles and is hands down one of the best actresses working today.

J-Law (as Katniss Everdeen) can do no wrong.

Even her little sister, Primrose Everdeen (played by Willow Shields) is a strong small character.

And The Tooch! Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman is, if anything, even more perfect than he was in the first film.

This is just a well-made movie on all quarters.

People complain about Lenny Kravitz as Cinna (Katniss’s wardrobe designer) but I can’t see why. I think he delivers just fine.

Complaints arise when Woody Harrelson’s role as Haymitch Abernathy comes up in conversation. But why? Woody Harrelson’s a great actor who, as this character, doesn’t irk me in the slightest! He even gets the emotional juices flowing when he makes a turn and you can tell he’s grown fond of Katniss.

How about Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee? It’s a sheer delight to watch the character developmental of the ‘game maker.’ What a great character!

Another one of my favorite players is the fetching Jena Malone as Johanna Mason. You love to hate her from the beginning, and the scene where she strips in the elevator is fantastic. The subtle misdirecting of the audience is executed with precision.

In much the same way, Sam Claflin is excellent as Finnick.

If you insist on squeezing a criticism from me, I’ll give you my strongest half-hearted slight on the plot. Don’t get all up in arms, but I think Katniss’s treatment of her love interests is not ideal. She’s our hero, years are passing, and she’s stringing two men along who’ve only been loyal and honest with her.

But she’s a complex hero with tough decisions to make so disregard that last point.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is an excellent sequel that delivers more than its fair share of compelling narrative.

I can’t wait for installment number three.