THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE review by Ronnie Malik – are the odds in its favor?

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE review by Ronnie Malik – are the odds in its favor?


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Director: Francis Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci

Rating: B+

We are back for the next installment of the The Hunger Games with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The wildly popular first movie, based on the book written by Suzanne Collins, tells a story from the point of view of the main character, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). Each year a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 to 18 will be selected from 12 districts in the country of Panem to engage in a televised combat to the death. The reward for winning the deadly contest is wealth, fame, and the promise of never being recruited for the games again. Children highly skilled in arena of combat and being able to accomplish survival strategies that some skilled soldiers can only dream of… is pretty far-fetched. But somehow child killers worked when the first novel of three written by Collins came to life on the big screen. Will Catching Fire, the second novel in the trilogy, light up the big screen or it will it barely give off a spark?

The story begins where the first one ended. Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), the first two co-winners to survive The Hunger Games, are playing their roles as the two fighters that fell in love during the games and it is their love story that has the nation fascinated. Performing the charade in front of thousands has the two pretend lovers absolutely miserable, and to top it off Katniss is really in love with the handsome Gale (Liam Hemsworth). President Snow (Donald Sutherland) sees right through the act and warns Katniss that she must make her love story with Peeta believable. Snow’s goal is to use the fake lovers as a media tool to control a rebellion that started after Katniss and Peeta won the games.

Much to Snow’s surprise the defiant Katniss displays behavior that actually fuels the rebellion. To discredit the darling of the games, Snow, who is in cahoots with Plutarch (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), changes the rules. To celebrate the 75th will be a new competition involving previous Hunger Games winners. The President’s goal is to use the telecast to discredit Katniss’ image as a beacon of hope for the brewing revolution.

Like the first film, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, is filled with high speed train rides, sophisticated training facilities, and plenty of unimaginable obstacles thrown in front of the annual games… Snow announces that their former victors must now battle each other. It is almost a replay of the first film but the images and action are much sharper in the sequel. What makes this outing new and different is the overall mood, which is much darker than the first film. The fact that the players in the games are former winners makes them older than the first set of games, and therefore the opponents seem more believable as opposed to watching pre-teens trying to kill each other. We get a better feel for the oppression the citizens of Panem live as well as the brutality that is used to control those not fortunate enough to live in the beautiful capital city inhabited by the upper cast of society. There is more character development and better directing here than in The Hunger Games.

It is delight to see Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, and Donald Sutherland reprising all the colorful characters they play so beautifully. Adding some more light to story are actors Sam Claflin as the flirtatious and hunky Finnick, Jena Malone as the outrageous and outspoken Johanna, and Jeffrey Wright as the super brainy intellect Beetee.

The set and costume design for the capital city add much more depth and feel to the overall theme of the ruling class’ indulgence while the working class are struggling to survive. The city looks magnificent with its opulent and glimmering buildings making it feel like a crystal wonderland. Don’t be surprised if some of the fashion from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire becomes all the rage. The outfits Katniss gets to strut around in are highly stylized and sophisticated. Extremely colorful, over-the-top and fun, the couture that Effie (Elizabeth Banks) gets to wear can easily inspire next year’s Halloween costumes for the brave at heart.

The best part of the movie is Jennifer Lawrence, who literally is the girl on fire. With one Oscar under her belt and roles in the X-Men and The Hunger Games franchises, this girl has got it made. Lawrence is very powerful as our young unwilling heroine who is filled with fear, despair, conflict, and ultimately bravery. The camera focuses on the actresses facial expressions and each emotion she displays comes out so convincing making you feel very connected to her character. It is Lawrence’s performance that really carries this movie and makes you believe in Katniss’ plight. She is a brilliant actress at such a young age and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Filled with non-stop action but also containing meaning about hope and overcoming the impossible, this entertaining film explodes with energy and will keep audiences on fire as they wait for the third installment due in 2014 – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – which by the way will be two films instead of one. Hopefully that means we will get something that is going totally sky rocket off the big screen as The Hunger Games trilogy comes full circle.

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE is set to hit 2D and IMAX theaters on November 22, 2013.

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