1 Dec 2013

The Hunger Games Catching fire

Note wee spoilers follow

For the fans of the Hunger Games series the second film has finally been released.  Catching Fire continues on from The Hungers Games with Peeta and Katnis now living the high life as victors. The high life apparently consists of living in a house with running water and a roof in the isolated victors village.

But success has brought Katniss new problems. Even though her family is safe and she is free to be with Gale, she still struggles to let herself open up to Gale. This is further complicated by the public perception that she is with Peeta, and the PTSD that she suffers from.

But victory isn't just electricity and  access to regular food, as the victors of the 74th Hunger Games they must conduct a tour of the Districts under the close eye of President Snow and the Capital.

Unbeknownst to Katniss her performance in the last games has triggered something in the districts. The discontent of the poor has risen to boiling point and various districts are rioting.  The people have found a symbol to rally behind, and it that is the defiance and compassion that Katniss demonstrated during the games. For President Snow the 74th games were not a exhibition of power and oppression, but of hope.

But as a victor Katniss has fame and a certain security which makes it difficult for Snow to eliminate her.  However, a new game maker and the 75th Hunger games gives him the opportunity. This year the reaping will be from the existing pool of victors.,which means Katnissas, the only female victor in district 12, must return to the games.

Ensue more death!

Francis Lawrence replaces Gary Ross as the director. You might know Francis Lawrence from I am Legend and  Constantine, but despite those films Catching Fire doesn't suck. He has given the film a newer flashier look, for example the peace keepers are different and more Haloesque, and less of the classic science fiction feel that the  Hunger games  had which I missed.
However the new look works though as the story spends less time in the ghettos of District 12 and more in the Capital. The film needs that flash to create the decadence of the Capital.

The performances are still very good, Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson have a plausible awkward on screen chemistry, although poor Josh gets regulated to almost a damsel in distress figure.  Lawrence is a more sympathetic and considerate character than the Katniss of the books, which makes her more enjoyable to watch. I thought the scenes depicting her suffering with PTSD were particually well done. 

The confusion and tension between Liam Hemsworth and Lawrence as the other side of the love triangle continues at a believable pace. Hemsworth as Gale trying to connect with Katniss, but with Gale's concerns over Peeta, and their contradictory views on the future of Panem, they find their romance stuttering. It certainly seems more real than most love stories aimed at teenage girls.

But the real stars of Catching Fire for me were Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland.
I particually liked Elizabeth Banks as the vacuous Effie, whose dedication to the Capital and the games is starts to unravel once Peeta and Katnis are called to fight again. Effie is still a ridiculous figure, but Banks gives her more depth than you expect.

Sam Claflin as Finnick and Lynn Cohen as Mags as the tributes from District 4 were also favorites of mine. 

The elderly Mags was Finnick's mentor when he was in the games, and the bond the two have  as adopted mother and son is probably the best on screen chemistry in the movie.

I was worried that the violence would be too much for the 12 year old that I watched with, but it turned out to be fine. She loved it and now has 12 months to anticipate the final in the series.

Catching Fire is well made, with a good pace and story it was over too soon, which for a 146 minute film is a great sign. . As a sequel it carries the franchise on without trying to be the first. I think I enjoyed this more than the first film, but now that I have read the books that may have made the difference.

If you are a fan you won't be disapointed, and unlike most film adaptaiton of books this is not only very close to the original stories, but in someways a lot better.

 7.5 from me.

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