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Published on December 12th, 2013 | by Allan Brown

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Review

 

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)hunger-games-catching-fire-film-poster. movie-review-world

Rating: 12A

Running Time: 146mins

Director: Francis Lawrence

Writers: Simon Beaufoy (screenplay), Michael Arndt (screenplay), Suzanne Collins (Novel)

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

Plot: As Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark embark on their victory tour of the districts they become targets of the Capitol  sparking a rebellion in the Districts..

 

Movie Review World

And so it arrives, the highly anticipated science fiction adventure sequel to the franchise spawning, runaway smash hit, The Hunger Games.

When The Hunger Games crashed onto our screens back in 2012, it spared no time in seizing its audience, quickly becoming an overnight phenomenon whilst filling the crater in the market left by Twilights departure , and thus, spawned an incredibly lucrative new franchise, thanks to an astute marketing campaign, and of course, Suzanne Collins’ much revered best selling trilogy of novels.

jennifer lawrence as katniss everdeen in dress from the hunger games catching fire.The epic sequel simply entitled, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, kicks off shortly after its predecessor ended. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) having survived the 74th annual Hunger Games, have now emerged as the triumphant tributes to the districts.

Soon after arriving safely back in their hometown of District 12, Katniss Everdeen finds herself face-to-face with Panem’s fanatical oppressor, President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland), who is far from impressed with Katniss’ poisoned berry stunt. However, Katniss and Peeta embark on their mandatory victory tour of the Districts as planned, along with their chaperones, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) at their sides.

Characters like Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) are never fully fleshed out or given enough time to develop, dropping in and out of the story before disappearing like a fart in the wind

During their Victory Tour, Katniss and Peeta continue to witness widespread discontent and unrest in the people towards the capitol, unrest that threatens to spark in rebellion. This only infuriates President Snow’s rage even more. He indeed wants to execute Katniss who is quickly becoming a symbol of hope and strength in all districts, but new games maker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) assures him that Katniss can still serve the state in her capacity as a tribute. Rather than organize another Hunger Games with new tributes, Snow announces a Quarter Quell (A special Games that occurs only every 25 years). Quarter Quell tributes are chosen from the victors of previous games. In District 12, Katniss is selected again, but former victor Haymitch is chosen over Peeta. Similarly as Katniss did in The Hunger Games when she too substituted herself for her younger sister Primrose, Peeta in-turn substitutes himself for Haymitch, and so our hero and heroine find themselves back in the arena facing not only each other, but a considerably tougher competition.
philip-seymour-hoffman-and donald sutherland in the hunger games catching-fire-movieBefore I continue with the review, I must make it clear; I have not read the novels and therefore only reviewing the film on its own merit.

When I first viewed The Hunger Games in 2012, it sadly left me somewhat cold and disappointed.

While the film is clearly aimed at teen market, the narrative does deal with some interesting adult themes and thought provoking analogies (some of which are more subtle than others), echoing some aspects of our own shady History. These elements work well throughout the narrative and help create a rich, detailed and brutality honest world to captivate us.

Where the film excelled, there were other aspects I felt that ultimately let it down. In particular the script, acting and character portals by some of the young cast members (not the leads). I couldn’t help but feel some of the performances did not provoke the fear, anxiety or trauma these young children would be feeling and indeed showing, if thrown into such a life or death, kill or be killed situation.
katnis and peeta speak to district on catching fire movie. movie-review-worldInstead of going for a more natural realism, it was played safe before eventually nose diving head first into the familiar, glossy Hollywood way of thinking, were looking beautiful and playing it cool came before any sense of realism. Whenever one of the repeat offenders was on screen evoking these bratty, arrogant, unemotional, character cliqued behaviours, I was disconnected, turned off and uninterested, very quickly.

The Hunger Game Catching Fire retwigs the tone laid out by its predecessor, subtly directing it along with the narrative down a grittier more natural path. As a result, the film is stronger, offers a deeper emotional connection and the characters, more believable. Both Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson carry the film with ease and feel much more settled in their roles this time round, offering, at times, dynamic and truly captivating performances.

However, with that said, Catching Fire does breathe its own unique set of problems.

When I first viewed The Hunger Games in 2012, it sadly left me somewhat cold and disappointed.

The sequel is more complex in its narrative structure than its predecessor and introduces us to a whole new set of characters, and this is where the main problems lie, in its pacing.

Characters like Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) are never fully fleshed out or given enough time to develop, dropping in and out of the story before disappearing like a fart in the wind, or simply left as background fodder. I also feel, things again happen far too conveniently. In the latter scenes, a series of events which could never have been anticipated given the circumstances, are as we later find out, not only anticipated, but anticipated down to the very last detail. Scenes like these ask you so suspend disbelief and not question plausibility in a world that has already laid down the rules, but then ultimately moving the goalposts to suit.
woody harrelson and philip seymour hoffman in the hunger games catching fireI have no doubt these points will be explained further with the next film but should the audience members, who like me, have not read the books be left without closure to this movie? After all this is a single film, and like all stories should be constrained to some kind of structure. I feel these details could have been handled better.

With that said, I did enjoy The Hunger Games: Catching Fire far more than its first offering and look forward to the next instalment, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 that arrives in cinemas 21 November 2014. My only worry is that the love triangle brewing between the lead characters becomes the full focus of the story, leaving all aspects of the bigger picture secondary. Time will tell…

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Review Allan Brown

Verdict

Summary: This epic sequel is a stronger, more emotional and gritty offering than its predecessor that is sadly harboured by some pacing and script issues.

3


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Despite my 9-5 being consumed by the daily duties of an Electrician, Movie Review World serves as a platform for me to share my thoughts, explorations and reflections on one of my biggest passions, film.



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