A month ago I went to see a film and there was a gentleman who sat a few seats away from me in the same row. To this day I’m not sure if he was slightly disturbed or just had poor social skills, but he laughed at all the wrong moments, made strange sounds, and tried to talk to the people around him. I wasn’t quite annoyed, since if the young man did have mental issues then it’s not right to judge him for it. But I can honestly admit that I wasn’t exactly overjoyed at the situation.
I was, however, a bit bummed when the same guy sat two seats away from me today when I went to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
First off let’s start with the facts. Catching Fire is better than the first Hunger Games. But because of this, it’s far, far, far less likely to garner new fans.
Why? Because it hews as close to the book as it can. The second book in the trilogy is the true plot. The first novel was the set-up for the story. It was able to fill the story with as much action as possible. This book is the bridge between what happened and what’s about to happen. In order to bridge this particular story, there is a whole lot of plot that needs to be filled. Intrigue, hints, character development and lots and lots of story is necessary.
This leads to a much smaller amount of action in a 146 minute film. (For the record, the first was 142 minutes long.)
For fans of the novels and fans of the first film, you’ll be glad to know that the series seems to be in good hands with new director Francis Lawrence. He adds a lot more pathos to a film that basically runs on it.
Now that Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) have won the Hunger Games, they’re required to tour the 12 districts and the Capitol and they’re expected to be grateful for it. Unfortunately, the way they won in the first film has given hope to the populace that has long been under the thumb of the Capitol.
Because of this, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) decides that he has no choice but to end the rebellion in its infancy by pitting Hunger Games victors against each other. So instead of living out the rest of their lives in relative peace, Peeta and Katniss must instead face off against 22 other competitors, each one a previous winner.
Even worse, the new arena is fiendishly run by new Head Game Master Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Now it’s not only the other individuals that one must worry about, but the arena itself. Blood rain, poisonous fog and crazed apes are just a few things encountered by our ‘contestants’.
Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz all reprise their roles from the first film, and they’re all just as good as they were before. This is a good thing because they’re in this film more than the first.
The special effects are, of course, impressive. The Capitol is gorgeous, and all the effects within the arena are seamlessly done.
Don’t be fooled by the 75th Hunger Games, however. Only the last hour takes place inside the arena, as the rest of the film is focused on development, development, and more development. Wheels are turning and plans are being put into place for bigger things. This is good for fans of the franchise but those who were on the fence may very well fall off this time around.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: B-