For Resistance Day on We Make Movies on Weekends, we look back on the best outing for the famed Hunger Games trilogy. Catching Fire is the second in the four film series and sees young heroine, Katniss Everdeen, sent back into the sadistic arena by The Capital and evil dictator, President Snow.
It has been a few years since the end to the Hunger Games Franchise. Young adult books seemed to always live in the shadows of Twilight, yet this better, bigger and bolder series blazed past all expectations and transcends to all ages. The first instalment of this epic series was a good effort. Although director Gary Ross has handed over the reins to Francis Lawrence, we are now following a rather impressive smoke trail with the sequel Catching Fire.
Catching Fire sees life after the first film, which saw Katniss Everdeen defeat The Hunger Games alongside her pretend boyfriend Peeta. Now living in the aftermath, a planned Victory Tour to celebrate their winnings will see them visiting the districts and the families of those fallen tributes. Unfortunately, Katniss and Peeta won by defying the Capitol and President Snow is not happy, seeing their defiance paraded in front him. Not only this, but Panem and it’s districts seem on the verge of revolution. Snow will do anything to nip it in the bud, even if that means sending Katniss and Peeta back into the arena.
Where the first movie lay some impressive groundwork, Catching Fire has built an impressive franchise empire. Holding so dearly to the heavy themes of the second book, Lawrence translates the action, tension and wrought emotions so effortlessly to screen. Not only are we submerged in a film that is darker than the first, but we are hooked from the opening sequence to the credits. Lawrence has picked up on the passion, the fight for survival that makes Catching Fire such an intriguing piece in the trilogy (now saga.) Using this to expand on the world first captured by Ross, Lawrence takes away the mistakes of shaky cam and instead uses ambitious and grandiose scenes to encapsulate the anger that is burning throughout the movie.
Here Catching Fire unites so many different parts with equal excitement and dismay. The Victory Tour is full of the doubts and jeopardies as well as a feast of imagination as they travel back to the colourful world of the Capitol; some seriously well done set and costume design is trotted out here. And going back into the arena is still as riveting as the first film but it is a much more sadistic and vicious arena than the first. Lawrence never lets go of the line of conscious that this sequel is much more menacing than before, that going back is ultimately going to death.
Of course, Lawrence has some talented lead players to carry, not only the wrath, but the emotional elements and portray them so effectively on screen. Handing such material to actress of the moment and Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence would always produce some brilliant work. Here Katniss has little lines to deal with but Jennifer Lawrence manages to excavate the inner turmoil of her; the scared child who has to make believe for cameras, the fighter who is trying to save her loved ones and the rebel who is uniting a nation. These layers of Katniss are all here and embodied so wonderfully in Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal.
She plays against characters old and new who equally encapsulate the spirit of the movie; Elizabeth Banks is much more grown into her role as Effie, Stanley Tucci is vile but charming as The Hunger Games host Ceaser Flickerman and we can always rely on Donald Sutherland to give us a quietly fuming villain, alongside Phillip Seymour Hoffman as head Game Maker Plutarch. In the same respect, fresh faces such as Sam Cafflin’s playboy fighter Finnick Odair and Jenna Malone’s foul mouthed and raging Johanna are happily welcomed into the series.
The most impressive here is Josh Hutcherson who has grown into his role as Peeta. Where previously he seemed like a throw away pawn in the franchise, he has now matured Peeta who is every bit as frightened and anguished as Katniss is. All the while, he has these moments of kindness, love and selflessness. Having Hutcherson develop this role in this way is vastly impressive and you will go in backing Katniss, come out stunned by his acting.
Catching Fire is an action packed sequel that takes you into its fiery grip and refuses to let go. It is grandiose yet poignant, balancing so many different themes and roles extremely well. It gives a better taste of the franchise and dystopian world that is twisted and bent. Catching Fire is not only a faithful adaptation of the book but it will drag those who have not read the source material into the heart of the action and characters. It is bold and exhilarating, leaving you aching for more.