The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, or Hunger Games 2 as hopefully no one calls it. I’ll start by saying I have read The Hunger Games trilogy. I actually read them after seeing the first film as I enjoyed the film so much so I have none of the ‘oh the book was better’ anxiety that normally comes with this kind of territory. After all, this film is not only a book adaptation but a sequel. Ew! Must be terrible, right? No. It’s not.
Catching Fire picks up with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) after her ‘victory’ in the 74th Hunger Games. Having outsmarted the totalitarian establishment, she has put herself and everyone around her at great danger by unwittingly positioning herself as a symbol of hope for the oppressed masses. Recognising the threat that she poses, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) decides that she must be eliminated at any cost. Following a traumatic Victory Tour with fellow winner and pretend fiance, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutherson), Katniss learns that she will soon be returning to the arena where she will again have to fight for her life in the 75th Hunger Games.
The long run time reflects the faithfulness to the book. I can imagine that it would be extremely tempting to rush right to the beginning of the Games, but instead the director decides to give the time needed to develop the real story, the story of the Districts before leaping into the spectacle of the Games. For this, the film benefits. It gives more depth to the world glimpsed in the first film.
As in the last film, Jennifer Lawrence is quietly commanding as Katniss. The new supporting cast hold their own against Lawrence and inhabit their roles brilliantly, especially Jena Malone as Johanna, the tribute from District 7 and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the new Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (yes really).
Catching Fire is a worthy sequel to The Hunger Games, which when it was released lambasted the critics preconceptions of a “Battle Royale for the Twilight generation”. I personally enjoyed Catching Fire more, but this is likely due to the fact that it is also my favourite book in the series. Fans of the series will love this film. It doesn’t really hold up as a stand alone film so if you didn’t see The Hunger Games, rectify this first.
At the end we are treated to a glimpse of mostly-either-hysterical-or-unconcious-Katniss of Mockingjay which sadly will be split into two films. Creating two strong films from the weakest novel in the series will surely be a challenge for any director, particularly now that the bar has been raised by Francis Lawrence with Catching Fire.