If I have learned anything from reviewing films is to surrender my expectations. However, I had low expectations when I viewed the original HUNGER GAMES (2012) and found it to be a surprisingly entertaining film. I liked it so much that I named it one of the best films of the 2012. Prior to seeing the film I had no exposure to the books and I had no idea what to expect from the story. After a slow start I found myself completely involved in the story. I was also impressed with the performance of Jennifer Lawrence as lead character Katniss Everdeen. She brings toughness, determination and vulnerability necessary for the role. Lawrence earned a nomination for an Oscar for her role in WINTER’S BONE (2010) and took home an Oscar for Best Actress for her role in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012). Clearly she is a very good actress and without her the film would simply be average. Can you imagine Kristen Stewart in the role? Me neither.
If you are reading this review I will assume that you have seen the original film therefore I will not go into details and plot of that film. The story picks up a short time after the end of the events of the first film. Katniss and games partner Peeta have returned to their home District 12. Katniss is reunited with her lover Gale while Peeta is still carrying a torch for Katniss. Katniss is still haunted by the events of the games and is still carrying guilt because of the death of Rue. Their time at home is short lived as Katniss and Peeta must go on a Victory Tour in which they go to each district and pay homage to the other tributes that lost their lives games. During the tour it becomes evident that not only are they heroes but they seem to have been a spark that has ignited a revolution against The Capitol and President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Katniss represents hope to the oppressed; Snow is not happy with this turn of events and develops a plan that forces Katniss to participate in the games once again. If Snow’s plan is successful it will eliminate Katniss for good and restore order throughout the twelve districts.
The film is a perfectly executed sequel. It takes the existing characters and ups the stakes for them while also expanding the themes of the original story. Effie (Elizabeth Banks), clothing designer Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), Hunger Games host Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) and District 12 mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) have all returned have returned from the original story and we get to know a little more about them as well. The film follows the structure of the first film fairly closely but make no mistake, this is no carbon copy of the original. The training sequences and the actual games themselves take on a deeper meaning and with the stakes being higher it gives them more emotional resonance. Once the actual games begin the film is non-stop action with each set piece being better and more intense than the previous one. By the time was over I was worn out but in a good way.
CATCHING FIRE is a film that improves upon its predecessor. It joins THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK as one the best sci-fi sequels of all times. Similar to that film it is darker and adds additional characters who play an important role the story. The film also has an opened-ended conclusion with sets up its third and final chapter. This film is spectacular entertainment and fans of the series are going to have a great time watching it. Katniss Everdeen will return and may the odds be ever in her favor.