Movie Review: Catching Fire

Rating: 5 Stars

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some frightening images, thematic elements, a suggestive situation and language.

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Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Philip Seymour Hoffman

Trailer:

So, I’m going to take a hipster moment here and say that I did indeed read these books before they were incredibly popular. That’s the funny thing about being an active member of the literature community. You REALLY DO know about all these books before they become movies. Dystopia wasn’t the emerging king of the YA genre then as it is now. The Hunger Games was probably my first major foray into the world of dystopia, and I LOVED it.

I was pleasantly surprised by the first movie. I thought there were things that could have been done better, but all in all, I thought it was a solid adaptation, a wildly entertaining film, and enough to get people who hadn’t read the books interested in the series.

Catching Fire blew me away. Like, when the credits started rolling, I exhaled and felt like I had been holding my breath for two hours. I had laughed, I had cried (more than once), I had imagined shooting President Snow over and over again, and I had awwwwwwed at Peeta and Katniss and their confusing yet adorable relationship.

The acting in this movie is superb. Jennifer Lawrence leads this incredible cast, giving an altered performance from the first movie. Katniss lived through the first Hunger Games, but not without paying a price. She suffers from PTSD and Lawrence pulls this off with heartbreaking excellence. This trauma brings her and Peeta together, adorably played by Josh Hutcherson. Donald Sutherland is cold, calculating and terrifying as President Snow, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is effectively mysterious as Plutarch Heavensbee, the new gamemaker. Other notable actors/characters who finish out the main cast include Liam Hemsworth as Katniss’ best friend Gale, Stanley Tucci as the eccentric host Ceaser Flickerman, and Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket. This cast is enormous, and would take forever to name each character, but lets just say that there was not one character who I thought was poorly cast or did not do a great job.

Elizabeth Banks had a stellar performance as Effie Trinket, taking a completely ridiculous caricature and turning her into an emotional and dynamic woman. I was deeply impressed with Effie’s character, and I loved seeing her relationship with the tributes from 12.

The pacing in this movie is fantastic; there was never a moment where I was bored or wondering when a certain event would happen. The first hour is spent setting Katniss up to either fail miserably and be destroyed by Snow, or, by some unimaginable stroke of luck, to triumph over the Capitol. From what the audience sees, it appears that she is playing right into Snow’s hands, creating a tense and apprehensive atmosphere. The scene where the Quarter Quell is announced is heartbreaking, but the audience knows that without it, there would be no movie. That doesn’t make it any less sad, and Elizabeth Banks packs the real punch in that scene, as Effie reads the only name in the girls pool, trying desperately to keep her usual sunny disposition.

Once in the arena, its business as usual. Except it seems that the games are more terrible this time around. The only saving grace seems to be the budding romance between Katniss and Peeta, which is genuine this time, and it’s amazing to see the difference in those scenes from the first movie and then the ones in Catching Fire. Lawrence and Hutcherson, who have adorable chemistry in real life, effortlessly sell their relationship to the audience, creating an adorable and hopeful scene in the midst of the cruel and horrifying Quarter Quell.

The cliffhanger at the end outraged some, but I knew it was coming (forgive me, another hipster moment). I am quite pleased actually that there will be two more movies, especially if they are both the quality of Catching Fire.

I read this book quite some time ago, so many of the details are fuzzy, but from what I remember, the screenplay does a really good job of sticking to the book. 

So, if you couldn’t tell, I adored Catching Fire.

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