The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

DVD Cover (Lions Gate)
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Overall Rating 75%
Overall Rating
Ranked #181
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Connections: The Hunger Games

Twelve months after her Hunger Games victory, Katniss Everdeen finds herself under President Snow's watchful eye, and must prove that she and Peeta's double win was truly due to their undying love for each other. But Snow's plans have only just begun, and when the 75th annual Games begins, Katniss's life will change for ever. --IMDb
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Review by Crispy
Added: February 14, 2014
After all the problems the adaptation of the first novel had, I sure didn't have much hope when the sequel came along. Still, I enjoyed the books, so I figured might as well give the franchise a second chance. I'm glad I did.

It's been half a year since Katniss and Peeta swindled the Capitol at the 74th Hunger Games with the threat of a double suicide. While Katniss just wants to put everything behind her, it's time for the winning couple to go on their Victory Tour, a trip around the other eleven districts to say a few words about their Tributes. The day before they leave however, Katniss receives a visit from President Snow himself. It seems their little stunt has the other Districts in an uproar, and their citizens on the brink of rebellion. Snow is holding Katniss personally responsible for the unrest, and warns if she isn't able to quell their anger, her loved ones will be punished. Needless to say, after seventy-five years of oppression, they're not going to be placated so easily, and her mission is a tremendous failure. If anything, she accidentally fires them up even more. Snow realizes that while Katniss is the symbol of this looming rebellion, she's a scared child, and if he can crush her, the morale of his citizens will die as well. His plan is a special edition of The Hunger Games, where the Reaping will be taken from past winners; after all, Katniss is District 12's only female victor, so she's guaranteed to re-enter the arena. Unfortunately for Snow, the flames of rebellion have spread much quicker than he anticipated.

Now, the biggest problem I had with the first movie was how shallow all the events were translated from the book to the movie. While the scenes were there, they were just sloppily chucked in with no emotion or explanation, and had I not read the book before seeing the movie, I likely wouldn't have had a clue what was going on. Fortunately, Catching Fire was a much better adaptation. I realize that going page to page would likely result in a five hour movie, however there's a way to streamline the story without sacrificing it's impact. Director Francis Lawrence knew what scenes needed to be emphasized. Katniss' relationships with Gale and Prim, Peeta's depression with having to fake a relationship with the woman he loves, and the anger of the citizens and returning Tributes were all included without a hitch, and the none of the action of the Games itself was sacrificed in the process. Hell, I had a huge smile on my face watching my favorite sections in the arena play out on screen. With all that said, let's be honest here. He had a much easier job than Gary Ross did. Along with establishing Katniss' character and relationships, Ross also had to create an entire world, and explain the intricacies of its unique set-up. While I argued that he did it poorly, the groundwork was still laid for Lawrence to move forward on.

When I reviewed the last movie, I made the comment that Katniss Everdeen is not exactly a charismatic character, but rather an emotional mix of rage, hate and despair, especially in the later movies. I also expressed some concern about Jennifer Lawrence handling this role. Well she knocked it out of the park. You see, she understood; Katniss isn't strong, she isn't a leader. She just has a lot of anger and an impulse control problem, and the true rebels use her reluctant status as a symbol without her even realizing what they're doing. Hell, she's a pawn, and Lawrence doesn't try and raise her to something that she's not. Her two new allies were also well above par. Jena Malone absolutely nailed Johanna. The anger, the condescension, the snark bitchinees were all translated from page to screen flawlessly. Likewise, Sam Claflin was more than convincing as the cocky and arrogant Finnick Odair. Once again, Josh Hutcherson kind of floated, but Peeta's a pretty mopey character, so that may not be entirely his fault. The dark horse going forward is Liam Hemsworth. Gale was a much bigger part of the first two novels than the first two films, but the truth is, the omission of most of his scenes didn't have to much collateral damage on the plot of the franchise. All they had to do was establish how close he and Katniss were, which they've done, but in Mockingjay he's front and center. With such a small amount of screen time, it's a bit hard to get a read on how he'll handle Gale in the last two movies.

I'm not going to say it took me completely by surprise, but I certainly enjoyed Catching Fire more than I thought I would. What did take me by surprise, however, is how much faith it restored in me for the rest of the franchise. The final book, Mockingjay is being split into two parts. I'm actually looking forward to them. 8/10.
Crispy #1: Crispy - added February 14, 2014 at 4:42am
Apparently, Phillip Seymour Hoffman had completed his scenes for Part 1 of Mockingjay, and had only one key scene left in Part 2, which they plan on handling with a slight rewrite and some tricky camera work. It's a bit of a shame really; the franchise is shaping up to end on a high note, but it's not exactly a magnum opus for the man to go out with.
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