THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE Review; "Powerful And Emotionally Charged"
It's been out for a couple of weeks now, but if you're still on the fence about checking out Francis Lawrence's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire before The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is release in a few days, then hit the jump to read my verdict of the adaptation of Suzanne Collins' novel.
I was lucky enough to go into The Hunger Games with no real expectations, something which was arguably helped by the fact that I'd never read the Suzanne Collins penned novel it was based on. That movie turned out to be really good, and 18 or so months later and the sequel is already here, and I still haven't read the books. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a 5* movie right up until the point Katniss Everdeen and the rest of the tributes enter the arena. Why? Well, that unfortunately puts us squarely in the realm of generic action blockbuster territory, while a rushed and slightly muddled ending doesn't help matters either.
The character driven parts of the movie are ultimately far more interesting than the attempts to differentiate this games from the last, with the addition of poison gas, tidal waves and, er, monkeys). The thought-provoking themes and parallels to issues in our own world are dealt with expertly by new director Francis Lawrence, and he also handles the admittedly still very good action sequences much better than The Hunger Games (a movie which relied far too much on the 'ol shaky cam). The jungle-like setting is also an interesting one, while the budget increase is put to good use thanks to some superb special effects and costume designs. Catching Fire is a damn good looking movie.
Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen) is superb in the sequel, and she brings the character to life marvellously on the big screen for a second time. It's really no wonder that she's an Oscar winner. Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark) is also great, while Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman) and Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy) all deliver the quality performances you might expect, offering a new spin of their familiar characters. Donald Sutherland is terrifying as the thoroughly evil President Snow and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee), Jeffrey Wright (Beetee) and Sam Claflin (Finnick) are the biggest new casting additions, with the latter in particular proving to be very impressive. Unfortunately, Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne) once again doesn't get an awful lot to do.
Despite featuring some powerful and emotionally charged moments, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire loses momentum near the end for the same reasons that the first movie did. Too many hard to distinguish tributes and an ending which feels far too rushed in order to set up the next instalment stop the movie from being the best blockbuster of 2013. Ultimately however, it's still extremely good, and is at its best when it keeps the focus on both the politics and horrific living conditions of Panem. If nothing else though, it's equally as entertaining as the first movie, and as a result is well worth checking out!
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE begins as 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.
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark
Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy
Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket
Lenny Kravitz as Cinna
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee
Jeffrey Wright as Beetee
Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman
Donald Sutherland as President Snow
Toby Jones as Claudius Templesmith
Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair
RELEASE DATE: November 22nd, 2013.
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