Hunger Games: Catching Fire Film Review

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Aside from the Marvel franchises, one of the most anticipated films of the year is the return of Jennifer Lawrence (J-Law) as Katniss Everdeen. And here she is, bolder and sexier, in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

So is it really worth our wait? Will we love it the way we love Lawrence and her character Katniss?

I hated the cliffhanger as the movie ended. But I loved the way Jennifer Lawrence’s face emotionally changing from desperation to revenge, significantly followed by a CGI of her symbolic pin – the mockingjay.

And for those who did not read the book (like me); and who did not watch the first one (not me) The Hunger Games is a televised fight to death in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to compete. She and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) represented and eventually won the 74th Annual Hunger Games. The last man (or woman) standing, known as The Tributes, becomes The Victor. And as we all know, both District 12 reps Katniss and Peeta (please, stop calling him “Peter”) were supposed to kill each other but chose to commit “suicide” instead by eating the poisonous berries. Of course the owners and head gamers did not like the idea of nobody winning, as a result, changed the rules, and declared the pair as winners.

The first film was directed by Gary Ross and was penned for screen by Billy Ray, and the author of the novel, Suzanne Collins. This time, Hunger Games: Catching Fire is directed by Francis Lawrence (no relation to J-Law) and his screenwriters for this one are Simon Beaufoy and Miachel De Bruyn.

Catching Fire follows the events after they have won. Katniss and Peeta were like “Hollywood” celebrities forced to do the things they are not supposed to do; and make people believed that their so-called love story will eventually lead to marriage and having a family. And what is more fitting to introduce them to the entire Panem is by visiting all the districts’ reps they have defeated through what they call, “The Victory Tour”. Here they “should” continue to pretend as couples, really falling in love with one another as mandated by their leader, President Snow played subtly by Donald Sutherland. Of course this make-believe love story started in Part 1, which created conflict with Katniss real love interest Gale Hawthorne played by Liam Hemsworth. (Liam is the younger brother of Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and the ex-beau of Miley Cyrus pre-wrecking ball and twerking days.)

This dragging drama of the victory speeches and giving honor to the tributes and their families establishes the rebellion that will soon happen in Part 3. Their victory, especially the heroic deeds of Katniss is slowly prompting a rebellion of some sorts to the people. This made the head of state, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) very angry and planned to “kill” the people’s symbol of hope. And guess what the plan is. Bring back all living victors – twelve of them – and fight for the 75th Hunger Games – The Quarter Quell.

The appearance of the other victors confirmed the victory of Katniss and Peeta in Part 1 – that you don’t have to be the strongest and most skillfull in such games. You can either be really, really good (in the case of the sibling victors, Gloss and Cashmere; and the feisty Joanna and Finnick; or you can just be very, very lucky much like the nerds Beetee and Wiress and the deaf mute old lady, Mags.

For those who expect more and more killings like The Tributes last year you will be disappointed. No more tributes, but Victors – making allies and running for their lives. Some maybe bored at the beginning of the movie, especially those who are looking for great fight sequences complete with flying daggers and fist-fighting. The first part of the movie literally made me hungry as nothing much is happening; BUT it patiently leads you to anticipating the next few sequences. The second half of the movie reminds us of the things that happened in the 74th Annual Hunger Games – running, and more running. But, like its predecessor, this is no longer a child’s play. This is survival at its finest characterized by the hourly devastation of some sorts, mechanically mastered by new head gamer, Plutarch Heavensbee portrayed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
Katniss is still at her sarcastic best especially when asked to show her skills for assessment. You may recall that she hit an apple in the first movie towards the Bob Arums and the Donald Trumps of the Capitol; this time she made a statement again. Instead of hitting them with arrows (finding out that it has been protected with a force field), she made a dummy robot, hung it in front of them, and wrote the name Seneca Crane. Who is he you might ask? He was the head gamer in Hunger Games 1 who was offered the poisonous berries when he decided to let Katniss and Peeta live instead of killing themselves. She was just paying tribute to the person who saved their lives.

Audiences may react to the quick and various costume-changes of Effie (Elizabeth Banks); and the usual banters of Haymitch (Woody Harrelson). These two could have been great Tributes as well. We will forever be fascinated by Katniss and Peeta’s transformation to be “the couple on fire”; and Katniss’ evolution to being the mockingjay during the presentation of Victors. Kudos to Lenny Kravitz’s Cinna for creating wonderful gowns for her.

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Catching fire is crowd-pleasing and compelling, mainly because of Katniss – a fiery and charismatic heroine. And this is way better than the first one in terms of its depth and story development. It was smoothly directed and Director Lawrence enriched it with a deeper exploration of the film’s thought-provoking and ‘disturbing’ theme. For hardcore fanatics, they may not like the idea of the toned-down bloodsport, but I kinda liked the pacing as I have not read the movie. This is more energized than the first one, and a great leap for the movie’s franchise. It’s all about hope and what it represents. The stakes have of course gotten larger and also vastly more interesting. It’s no longer a game on the battlefield, it now creates a psychological dilemma to its viewers. I yawned a couple of times the first few scenes not because I was bored to death, but I was just really sleepy. Jennifer Lawrence is showing us reasons why she was the Oscar’s Best Actress for 2012. The roller-coaster change of emotions is just contaminating that you want to shout and cry with her. I just love the sarcasm. Spinning in that wedding dress or glaring in wary repose, Lawrence catches fire on screen – commanding and captivating. And are we going to miss this in Part 3? Maybe. Like everyone else, I feel awkward for Josh Hutcherson being physically shorter than J-Law. Though his face matured, his physical features are not matched with that of J-Law’s. Yes Liam Hemsworth could have been a great Games’ partner for her, but his character may develop more in the next Games movie. We all have to wait for that.

 

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