- Seen Hunger Games: Catching Fire yet? Jack Woodward gives his verdict on the the new installment of the famous trilogy.
It’s been a few months since the events that Katniss Everdeen lived through in the first film, and she’s trying to return to the life she remembered before them. She’s started hunting with Gale again, the look and feel of District 12 maintaining that grey haze we’ve seen before, only, this time around Katniss is living in a mansion. She’s going with Peeta on the Victory tour soon, to show the world these star-crossed lovers just had to defy the Capitol to be together. Yet President Snow warns her: ‘Convince me’. Or the seeds of rebellion will take fruit very quickly.
So sets the stage for the second and stronger entry in the Hunger Games series. The success of the first film meant more than double the budget of its predecessor, and it shows. It retains the excellent ensemble cast from its prequel, with Jennifer Lawrence giving a compellingly level-headed and strong performance that’s required in a heroine like Katniss. The cast across the board has their moments – it’s always nice seeing old characters you already know making a return in any series – but new additions like Sam Clafin as Finnick and Jenna Malone as Joanna more than manage to hold their own, becoming memorable in their own right.
A lot more screen time is devoted to showing how bad things have become in the Districts (and how lavish life is in the Capitol, including new costumes that are comparatively over-the-top but somehow with an extra edge of believability), and a couple of scenes demonstrating the brutal nature of the Capital’s dictatorship-like rule over them are fascinatingly shocking to see play out. Their impact would have likely been diminished if it wasn’t for the improved direction that gradually eliminates the shaky camerawork of the previous film in favour of smooth tracking shots, and in general everything is infused with a sense of energy and real emotional impact that simply wasn’t present the last time around.
And that’s before Katniss finds herself in her second arena. It’s more visually impressive, the dangers and action sequences are far more unique and dynamic, the contestants themselves are treated more like individuals rather than blanket “not-Katniss-or-Peeta-so-you-shouldn’t-care” types, plus it seems to move at a faster pace than it did the first time around too. Not to mention a fantastic conclusion that you don’t see coming leading into an even more brilliant cliffhanger ending.
Despite being so well executed on so many levels, Catching Fire isn’t perfect. At nearly 150 minutes long it drags at times. You get an extreme sense of déjà-vu with all the training and preparation sequences building up to the Games themselves, and the violence seems to be more prevalent this time around yet less brutal than the brief glimpses you saw in the first entry. And the love triangle is practically forgotten about in the last half.
Nonetheless, this is an excellent, superior follow-up. Here’s hoping that the director concludes the series on an even higher note.
The Hunger Games, Catching Fire is in cinemas now.