Looking back, the first Hunger Games film seemed more like an experiment, than anything else.
The film while based on a best selling YA franchise about children hunting each other on a televised game show in dystopian future, was a low budget take on an extremely grand vision of the future. When word started to spread that the director Gary Ross has parted with the franchise over a more substantial payday for the next 3 films I have to say, I was a bit worried as what to expect after that first film.
But something amazing happened after that film was released. The Hunger Games went on to make ten times its budget and it’s up and coming star Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar. Because of this Lionsgate did two very rare things, the budget of the sequel was doubled and the down time spent finding a new director was used to hone the script to near perfection.
Catching Fire starts off showing the effects of the violence of the games on Katniss Everdeen. She may have escaped with her and Peeta’s lives but she now suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder. Not too mention since the berry incident “The Mockingjay” has become a beacon of hope to the districts, something President Snow sees as a rather large threat the Capital’s rule.
In an effort to rid the districts of the hope her and her fellow victors bring, Snow decides that the 75th Hunger Games combatants will be comprised completely of the previous victors. Now Katniss and Peeta have to survive the Games again, but as the rebellion begins to take shape, everyone’s motivations are brought into question.
Out of the gate the acting and scope of the film seem to be on a much grander scale. Jennifer Lawrence brings a real maturity to Katniss that shows both an evolution of the character and of her as an actress. Jennifer is joined by more than a few new faces that are also up to the task, turning the sequel into a seriously emotionally engaging entry with some truly great performances.
The script by Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt is a thing of beauty. While the book suffered from some real pacing issues with its plot, none of that is apparent on screen. Director Francis Lawrence’s complete grasp of the material really shows as there is a real flow to the film that makes the transition from the Victory Tour to the games seamless. Catching Fire feels less like a retread and more like a bridge to Mockingjay.
Catching Fire is The Dark Knight of The Hunger Games trilogy. We see the emergence of a hero and her battle for survival, turning into a war for her nation’s freedom. You can’t but wonder what The Hunger Games would have been like, if they has had this confidence from the get-go. But it also makes me hopeful that Mockingjay is going to be the conclusion this great series deserves. Oh and if you can make sure you see this film in IMAX.
With that I honestly can give The Hunger Games: Catching Fire a perfect 5 out of 5 stars.