Monday, May 5, 2014

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

JohnnyTwoToes considers this dystopian scifi adventure a worthy sequel

Jennifer Lawrence returns to familiar territory of the Hunger Games Trilogy based on the Suzanne Collins novel with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. This film picks up just after Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) have returned home to the district as victors of the The Hunger Games. The district is still swimming in poverty and despair and just because Katniss and Peeta have won does not mean that life in their district will get better. Quite the opposite, seems to be the case. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) pays Katniss a visit and tells her that she and Peeta will go on a 'victory' tour to the other districts and tout the greatness of Panem and the centralized government that rules them all with an iron fist. He tells her she had better 'sell' it convincingly or else there will be DIRE consequences and part of this includes Katniss and Peeta being lovers. While Peeta might feel that way, Katniss has eyes for a man in her district, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), but must keep it a secret. Not only does the the 'victory' tour not go well but the two victors inadvertently spark riots that have costly repercussions. 

I loved the first Hunger Games film. It was brutal and its depiction of a dystopian future was scarily effective. The acting was terrific and overall the film was a huge critical and box office success. Now Catching Fire, has a different director and a new screen writing team, and although I did not enjoy it as much as the first film, Catching Fire has a lot of things going for it that I did enjoy. Most notably is Jennifer Lawrence who is not only easy on the eyes but she can act. Her Katniss is tortured by what happened in The Hunger Games, so much so that she has nightmares and sees herself still shooting arrows into young adults when she really is only shooting at wild turkeys. Lawrence does a good job of convincing us that she is damaged, inside and out and you truly feel sorry for her character. She is the selling point of these series and it is a good thing she can really act. 

Catching Fire has some great action sequences whether they are battling a poisonous fog or rabid monkeys and even each other. The entire cast is put to good use and this time around it includes Jeffery Wright, Jenna Malone and the late Phillip Seymore Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, the creator of the new competition. The original cast is also back with Elizabeth Banks as Effie, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, Stanley Tucci as the propagandist-in-chief, Ceasar Flickerman and Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, the wardrobe designer that makes Katniss glow. 

Catching Fire does has some slow parts and some of the film seems to trip over itself by trying to do too much. However, director Francis Lawrence and screenwriters Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt have crafted a smart, intelligent film that is worthy sequel for the continuation of this story. The visuals are stunning and James Newton Howard returns to the scoring chair with another great score for Catching Fire. His lush orchestral arrangements,cool synthesizer pieces and a hauntingly beautiful theme song by Coldplay make this score one for the library. 

Catching Fire is a good family film. There is not much that parents can fear for their kids and adults can watch it without sitting through insipid kiddie fare. Yes, folks, I sat through this film without wanting to jam my drink straw into my eyes. The third and forth films that will be coming out, as of this point will have the cast returning for at least one of the films and the director and screen writers will be the same. They have wisely decided to split the last book into two films, Mockingjay Part 1 and Mockingjay Part 2. Victory will be costly for the districts but, victory will be theirs, no doubt. Question is who will live to the end? I am looking forward to the next two films and I think you will be, too. Catching Fire will solidly 'carry your world' until then. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire- *** out of 4


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