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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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Katniss Everdeen has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a “Victor’s Tour” of the districts. Along the way, Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) – a competition that could change Panem forever.

This movie manages to be gripping and emotional, regardless of the need for more exposition and new characters. Middle installments of trilogies are typically the toughest to master, and with the exception of The Empire Strikes Back and The Two Towers and a couple of other people, often the least interesting; luckily for fans of the global publishing phenomenon, that’s not true here. Director Francis Lawrence ably picks up the helm from Gary Ross and retains a strong balance between the character growth, the socio-political overtones (more of Sutherland’s brilliantly acted cold-hearted oligarch!), and the violent acts of the Arena. Fortunately for him, his star isn’t just another fairly Hollywood starlet, she’s an Academy Award winner that will carry a franchise with both vulnerability and strength. And Lawrence’s off-screen friendship with Hutcherson shines through in their onscreen chemistry, which is as gentle and sweet as author Suzanne Collins clarifies.

The movie is incredibly faithful to the story, although purists may quibble about some lost moments in District 12 before Katniss and Peeta head to the Quarter Quell. The story provides more of this triangle between Katniss along with her two love interests — budding revolutionary best friend Gale along with the steadfastly kind and charming Peeta. The returning ensemble is all back and obviously relishing their personalities, such as Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz, and Elizabeth Banks, as a talk show host, handler, and stylist, respectively. Jena Malone is perfectly cast as the confrontational and angry young Tribute Johanna Mason, and Sam Claflin may not have the American accent down, but he’s still lovely as the hot and courageous Finnick Odair. Ultimately Catching Fire is Katniss’ story, and the audience will once more be grateful that Lawrence is indeed effortlessly natural as among young adult literature’s most memorable heroines.


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