Writing reviews for movies like this can be tough, because there will always be people that are such huge fans of the series that, regardless of what the movie was actually like, will love it absolutely. As some backstory, I have read all the Hunger Games books and I was fairly happy with the first installment.
Can Catching Fire continue to impress the masses and appease the fans of the books?
The gist is that Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) just won the 74th annual Hunger Games and are now celebrities. Their final moment of the Games triggered a revolution and now the Capitol wants to squash the rebellion and destroy Katniss as a symbol. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) works with the new “Game Maker” (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to develop a deadly new type of games for the 75th year.
Jennifer Lawrence proves yet again that she is an incredible talent and manages to convince us as an audience that Katniss is both incredibly badass and yet incredibly damaged. This film provided more opportunities for quiet contemplation, as opposed to the first one. We get to see those moments of reflection and the true fallout from the first games. There’s a few scenes where Katniss and Peeta are giving eulogies of the fallen tributes that gave me goosebumps.
The action is pretty incredible this time around, too. The camera work is much more steady, where the first film gave me a headache trying to understand who was fighting who. I was worried that the new games this time around would be hard to capture on film but it managed to make sense and be incredibly terrifying.
Overall, it was a much more polished film, though the nature of it being the middle book gives a few unique problems, see below.
What doesn’t work?
In simple terms, Catching Fire is a bridge. The Hunger Games was introducing us to the world and Katniss triggering a series of events she couldn’t stop. And then Mockingjay, the third book, is entirely focused on the revolution. As a movie, that means that Catching Fire doesn’t really have an ending. It stops abruptly and none of the issues it raised has any sort of closure. For people who don’t have knowledge about the books, this might be very jarring.
Catching Fire is, I think, a better film than The Hunger Games. Jennifer Lawrence is incredible and Josh Hutcherson comes much more into his own. Visually it’s stunning and the action is incredible. The Hunger Games is streaming now on Netflix, so there’s no reason to not catch it and then watch Catching Fire in theaters. Knowing that there’s a third and final installment on the way, expect that the ending will be abrupt but the story will eventually get the closure it deserves.