Yes kids, I have read a book before. That book is called “The Hunger Games.” While I enjoyed a majority of the book, there was a lot I wasn’t pleased with. Same goes for the movie. It followed the book just fine (which is both a good and bad thing) except with a lot more shaky cam.
I never read the final two books so all I knew going into Catching Fire was the information I got from the trailers. Those trailers were weak in my opinion. I didn’t care one bit about this movie and rolled my eyes at all the Hunger Dorks flipping out about it online. Then the movie received pretty good reviews which is enough to put me in a seat. And let me tell you, those reviews don’t do this movie justice. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire absolutely annihilates the first film and is one of my favorites of the year.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire takes place a year after the events of the first film/book. Katniss and Peeta are about to embark on a tour to the other districts but what they find is a mix of love and hatred as some see them (Katniss especially) as a symbol of hope while others dream they were dead. One of those dreamers is President Snow who isn’t pleased with how the 74th Hunger Games went. He devises a new idea to pick the tributes for the big 75th Hunger Games from the previous victors. Looks like our friends are back in the ring.
The plot to Catching Fire does exactly what a sequel should do. It continues the story while raising the bar. But my biggest worry with Catching Fire was that we would get a lot of “rinse and repeat” as we’ve seen The Hunger Games before. And while there is a little bit of that here and there, much is different and the Hunger Games in Catching Fire are pretty different than the Hunger Games we got in the original.
My biggest problem with the first Hunger Games film/book was that there weren’t a lot of strong characters. Katniss was cool, Haymitch was awesome, Gale was underused, Caesar was fun, and Cinna was a very relaxing character to have on screen. But Peeta is lame, Effie is effing annoying, and the villains in the Hunger Games (both in and out of the stadium) were weak and cliché to say the least. Thankfully, Catching Fire improved on just about everything character-wise.
Peeta, while far from my favorite (I’m Team Gale), flat out did more this time around. He never really takes action but when he participates, he doesn’t come off nearly as much “in the way” as he did in the first Hunger Games. Effie was given more character although more sympathy from her character would’ve still been nice. And, god bless Panem, the villains were heavily improved. Adding in Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Plutarch Heavensbee (gotta love the names in these things) was a nice touch and a huge improvement over Wes Bentley’s Seneca Crane from the first one. The people in the tournament hugely benefitted the movie especially a character named Finnick who was just cool.
The performances in the movie were perfectly fine in the first and just about the same as the second time around. Liam Hemsworth shined much more in this film and newcomers Hoffman and Sam Claflin (Finnick) were great. But it’s Jennifer Lawrence who once again shines as Katniss. We don’t get too many powerful main female characters in films and Jennifer Lawrence pulls it off exquisitely.
Finally, no more of that silly shaky cam from previous director Gary Ross as he’s been replaced by Francis Lawrence. The action scenes are silky smooth with none of that headache-indusing garbage we got the first time around. Great imagery all around in this film.
I also saw the film in IMAX and was happy to see The Hunger Games segment fill up the whole screen. The rest of the film is letterbox but the best and most exciting part of the film got the IMAX treatment. Worth seeing in IMAX if you don’t mind the higher price.
There was potential in the first Hunger Games film but it never reached what it could have. Catching Fire, while not perfect, does a much much better job. Fans of the book (assuming this movie follows the book just fine) should be overjoyed and casual fans of the films will find an extremely entertaining improvement with stronger characters and great direction.
For reviews and more from me, Petey Oneto, you can check out my blog but be sure to check back to Resident Entertainment for more of my posts in the future.