Film Review – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Following the events of The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdean (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are paraded round as celebrities by the powers that be in The Capitol. However, worried about her Katniss’ growing popularity amongst the repressed Districts, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) creates the Quarter Quell to mark the 75th anniversary of the Hunger Games, sending Katniss, Peeta and other previous winners back into the arena.

The second installment of a trilogy is often the darkest; just look at Star Wars and Lord of the Rings as examples. And it’s this way for a reason. We’re at the mid-way point in the story where the threat is usually at its highest and still a way off finding a resolution for the characters. This is where we’re at with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

The first Hunger Games film was a surprisingly adult affair considering its young adult demographic and featured a strong female lead, an attribute many considered an advantage over its Twilight peers. It was also a satirical look at today’s society, examining the class system and adding a modern twist to Orwell’s ‘big brother’ ideas.

Catching Fire is essentially split into two parts. The first focuses on Katniss coming to terms with the events of the first film and how she’s struggling to deal with having killed people and consequently being hailed as a celebrity because of it. This half may seem a little slow to those expecting the intensity to instantly match that of the first film, but it’s necessary to evaluate the past events as well as set up the second half of the film.

The second half plays out in a very similar fashion to the first film and, as such, feels a little repetitive at times. There are a few added elements and new characters but it does tread familiar ground perhaps too often. The film does also feel rather flabby with its two and a half hour runtime. There are a few scenes which probably could easily have stayed on the cutting room floor to make it a much tighter film which, considering the rather rushed denouement, is a little damaging to the pacing.

Now, onto the film’s tone and just how dark it is. The first film wasn’t exactly sweetness and light, particularly with its Battle Royale theme, but Catching Fire takes it to a new level. Here we have public executions and torture, as well as a really quite disturbing turn of events that isn’t dwelt upon too much but adds another dimension to the second half of the film. It’s a brave decision from director Francis Lawrence to run with a darker tone but the film benefits massively as a result.

Catching Fire’s cast have also developed along with the film. In the first film, it was Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch who really stood out but here pretty much everyone else has upped their game. Elizabeth Banks as Effie is a much more human character this time around, whilst Stanley Tucci as TV host Caesar Flickerman is fantastically creepy. However, it’s Jennifer Lawrence who really steps up to the plate. There was little wrong with her performance as Katniss Everdean last time around but she’s matured so much since then. She shows real conflict in her actions, perfectly portraying Katniss’s strength one minute and frailties the next.

Catching Fire has done exactly what it needed to do. It’s still true to the first in terms of style and message but has evolved the story and the main characters just the right amount. Splitting the final book, Mockingjay, into two films is a somewhat risky choice, but thanks to Catching Fire the franchise is doing nothing but growing in strength.

Pros

  • Great performances from Jennifer Lawrence, Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks
  • A real dark undertone to the film
  • An interesting comment on society
  • Fantastic costume design

Cons

  • Rushed denouement
  • Some characters feel underdeveloped
  • A little too long

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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43 thoughts on “Film Review – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

  1. theipc says:

    And now I even know what denouement means : )

  2. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. Definitely liked it less than the first, but it still had me feeling the same way at the end: Excited, tense and ready for whatever’s about to happen with this story.

  3. Mike Mellor says:

    Really enjoyed this film! I’d agree with the first section of the film being slow, but due to having read the books it’s dark nature is really hard hitting for me. There were a couple of sections I had to elaborate on with the person I went with but overall I can’t wait for the next.

    Also not sure about splitting the last into two films

    • See, I’ve not read the books but I’ve heard that it does definitely help. I might have to go give them a read to get the intricacies of the plot a bit more. Add yeah I’ve heard the last book is the worst so I don’t know why they’d split it into two films. I’ll still go see them, like.

  4. chris2508 says:

    Nice review. I really enjoyed the first one and I like the look of the sequel. I’m pleased that the film takes on a darker tone, I feel like the first one could’ve benefitted from a darker tone.

  5. jjames36 says:

    Completely agreed on the performances you highlight (I also think Jena Malone astonishing). Also agreed on the costumes. And on some underdeveloped characters.

    For whatever reason, I liked the length. And I love the denouement.

    • Agreed, Jena Malone was also great, most of the cast were to be honest. The length wasn’t too much of a problem, I just felt it could have been trimmed slightly and I know a lot of people loved the ending but I thought they just crammed it in a bit too much and rushed it a little. Just another couple of minutes and I think it would have been spot on.

  6. Another con I would say is that it sticks a little too slavishly to the books. Great film though, a real blast. Great review too Chris!

  7. ruth says:

    Nice to see a high score from you! Tucci is always great even in a small role, love that guy! I’m seeing this tonight, can’t wait!!

  8. Smash says:

    I haven’t seen any of these movies yet because I simply must read the books first! But it’s going to be a while before I do…

  9. vinnieh says:

    Excellent review, completely agree that this one is darker than the first.

  10. Zoë says:

    So glad to hear that you enjoyed this, I was duly impressed! Fantastic review!

  11. sati says:

    I liked the ending, it was surprising – and the quick ending given how the film dragged in the middle was a very good idea :P Glad you mentioned Banks, I really like her in both films especially this one.

  12. Good Review :D

    It was a great film, really liked it a lot. Thought it was a fantastic improvement over the first, and I cannot wait for the next one, especially after that ending :D

  13. ckckred says:

    Nice review. I felt that the beginning was kind of slow and the movie kicked more in gear in the second half, even though it was a bit repetitive of the first, though I know I’m in the minority about the film.

  14. Tom says:

    Fair and balanced review buddy! I am glad to see this many pigeons for this many sacrifices!!! Agreed, it paid off from having a decidedly darker tone here. Interesting to see what comes of installments 3 and 4. . . !

  15. Jaskee says:

    I thought this was a good movie that was a bit too long for me. Nice review.

  16. Gene says:

    Totally agree with your rating and maybe even a bit higher for me. I thought this was a great sequel and really upped the entire story, everything from the acting to the transfer of conflict from self (Katniss) to society (districts vs. capital). Nice review, great points about the darkness of this one compared to the first.

  17. Nice write up! Haven’t seen this yet, as I wasn’t too pleased with the first one. Though I may give it a chance, as I’ve read a few positive reviews :)

  18. Myerla says:

    “The second half plays out in a very similar fashion to the first film and, as such, feels a little repetitive at time”

    aaaaah, but it is a reality TV show isn’t it? and don’t all reality TV show make minor changes year in year out to very little effect? X Factor is still the same with its sob stories, merely average singers and the deluded despite the rule changes they make.

  19. table9mutant says:

    Nice review. :-) Thought this was a great adaptation – very faithful to the book. And so much better than that Twilight crap. :-)

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