The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Review

Katniss and Peeta

There’s something to be said for cinema that holds a mirror up to the very society we live in. For instance; the fact that we’re finding real substance here, in a franchise that one would think based on its source material and teen appeal, would offer little more than some Twilight-esque angsty drama. But, rather surprisingly, this second installment in the Hunger Games franchise based on the books by author Suzanne Collins is a massive leap in the right direction for the teen drama genre. No laughable dialogue or shimmering vampire’s to be found here, we’re talkin’ about a revolution!

The film picks up one year after the events of the first film on the eve of the 75th annual Hunger Games. Having been the victor in the previous Hunger Games, a Battle Royal style kill-to-live style reality show staged by the cruel, authoritarian government in “the Capitol” to instill fear and maintain control over the populace, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is now somewhat of a symbol of hope to those kept down by their oppressive government, and a media darling to those in the Capitol. While on a media tour on which Katniss and co-victor Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are forced to sing the praises of The Capitol and the games, they learn that they will once again be forced to partake, but this time it’s a whole new ball game as all those chosen are former victors of Hunger Games past competing to survive the Quarter Quell, an event that takes place every twenty five years.

The film is long but fast paced and not a second of screen time is wasted. With a much darker plot this time around, not only do we really get to understand the problems in their society, we can also see that the same problems lay just below the surface in our own society, just hidden away far better so as to keep the masses placid and clueless.

The performances are brilliant too, Jennifer Lawrence has grown into the character of Katniss, adding a whole lot of depth to the reluctant revolutionary that we just didn’t see the first time around. Capitol native Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) actually has more than a little dimension to her this time around too. When we first met her you couldn’t really say she was much more than a couture clown, but now we see she’s really grown to love Katniss and Peeta, it’s almost a motherly bond but overall you feel she is deeply sympathetic. Josh Hutcheron’s portrayal of Peeta remains passable, but Liam Hemsworth as Gale just seems to be little more than something pretty to look at. By far the most interesting new addition to the cast is the mysterious Plutarch Heavensbee played by the always amazing Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Heavensbee is the new head game maker for the nefarious President Snow (Donald Sutherland), and for those who, like myself, have not read the books, he’s someone to keep your eye on.

Casual Stroll

Overall the film is a solid, brutal and relentlessly engaging story and as someone who can’t call themselves a fan of the books and wasn’t crazy about the first installment, this time around we’re in much, much deeper waters, and there’s more than meets the eye here if you’re able to read between the lines. To my surprise, I left knowing that I will definitely be coming back for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is in cinemas November 21, 2014

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