Catching Fire Review
24th November 2013
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Following up a smash hit book adaptation with a sequel is never an easy feat. Between trying to keep fans of the book and fans of the original happy, the sequel also has to attract a new audience to the franchise. Surprisingly (at least, for me), Catching Fire achieves this delicate balance in a very good follow up to The Hunger Games.

After the events of Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) become targets of the totalitarian government as their actions spark uprisings in several districts of the fictional world of Panem. It is a story that looks to evolve the idea conceived in the first film, as well as providing an opportunity to flesh out a diverse universe. And if there is one word sums up Catching Fire, it is development.

The development of the world of Panem is one of the most obvious examples – The Hunger Games established the futuristic city as well as backward districts, but Catching Fire expands these notions. The capitol has a much more futuristic feel, with set designs and props look decidedly more science fiction – it is a really nice development from the production team utilizing the bigger budget given to them. It is the look of the universe that helps to move on the story into more mature territory.

The Hunger Games was a good film, and successfully adapted a popular book but I felt it was bogged down appealing to a teen audience, limiting its darker themes. Catching Fire looks to move past this limitation and expand the scope of its audience – for example there is a much bigger focus on the political side to the tyrannical government. Catching Fire has moved away from teen movie and into position as a very good science fiction film.

In terms of characters, we are treated to a performance we know expect from the vastly talented Jennifer Lawrence, who is fresh off the back of winning that academy award. Lawrence is the main emotional punch of the movie, as she reacts and fights the injustices portrayed in Panem. She takes grip and doesn’t let go.

The same cannot be said for Josh Hutcherson’s portrayal of Peeta. The character is sorely lacking any real personality that would get me invested in his struggle. I see him as a glorified lap dog to Katniss, needing to latch on to her story not really having an interesting one of his own. That is not to say there weren’t opportunities for Peeta to become an interesting character but any personal dilemmas are completely side stepped to keep the focus on Jennifer Lawrence.

Which leads me to the very weak love triangle that Catching Fire tries to portray between Katniss, Peeta and Gale. It is a dilemma that has absolutely no drama as we spend next to no time with Gale’s character (who is a lot more interesting that Peeta), and 95% of the movie seeing Katniss and Peeta together – which could have worked had Lawrence and Hutcherson had any actual chemistry between them. A sub plot that feels irrelevant and dry.

However, Catching Fire’s supporting cast is sublime. Woody Harrelson was his usual great self, as was the under utilized Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but a special mention has to go out to Donald Sutherland’s portrayal of the sinister President Snow – who enjoys a fantastic scene threatening Katniss. Even Sam Claflin manages to put in a solid performance, after a woeful start to his acting career in Pirates of the Carribean: On Strangers Tide.

To finish things up, Catching Fire is a significant improvement on The Hungers Games as it shifts into a more universal light – not just teenagers! Even without its great story, fantastic setting and (mostly) memorable performances, I recommend that you go and watch this movie. Mainly due to having Jennifer Lawrence in it – I mean, what more could you want?

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