I’m not an avid reader of the books, but I found The Hunger Games (2012) quite good—and one of the best enjoyments of the year—so I put some expectation on the second installment.
Catching Fire picks up where the Games left, taking place roughly in a year after Katniss/Peeta’s victory. What could happen in a year? So many. The Games changes everything, from Katniss herself, people of the districts, the Presiden Snow, even Effie’s attitude towards District 12’s tributes.
Catching Fire is darker & more brutal than the first film—literally & figuratively. If Hunger Games was a foreplay, Catching Fire would be the orgy party with everyone you know and you don’t know, with BDSM practices, with lights off. The pace isn’t slow, but not in hurry either. It’s just set carefully and I think the efforts pay off. It draws audience into the story step by step, started from conversations, lashings, to the killings.
Every actor & actress lends their charisma to the film. Donald Sutherland still portrays Presiden Snow but here he’s got more screen time. His body gestures, the way he gives speeches, laughs, smiles and smirks, even the way his eyes looking at Katniss are both threatening and terrorizing. He’s the epitome of power itself. Elizabeth Banks (the high-fashion clad Effie Trinket), Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman the MC), Woody Harrelson (the still alcoholic Haymitch) all reprise their roles and deliver some plot-strengthening performances. The surprise comes from Phillip Seymour Hoffman, playing as Plutarch Heavensbee, successor to Seneca Crane. He seemed cold, cunning and full of agenda at first scenes, but that’s not because he’s a Capitol man. Watch this man unwrap himself.
New casts including all Tributes from previous Games didn’t disappoint. Special notes for Jena Malone (as the axe-wielding Johanna Mason) and Sam Claflin (the handsome Finnick Odair). Malone might be new to the franchise, but she doesn’t come only with axe and anger. She steals some minutes of the screen. You’ll love this girl. What about the Games scenes itself? Well, Games is the Games: it’s still gruesome & lethal. I really wish the scenes were extended for the sake of joy. The audience’s joy.
Back to Jennifer Lawrence. In Catching Fire JLaw once again proves what strength & courage look like, and what it takes to be a symbol of hope. She delivers it all. The scenes where she’s devastated by the deaths and injuries of some people she holds dear were explored quite well by both her & the another Lawrence (the director). So dark. So heart-wrenching. She still excells at the arena, nevertheless.
‘The Girl on Fire’ is skyrocketting, and no one will stop her anytime soon. Both in Panem and Hollywood.
Photo credit : IMDB.