Now we return to the world of Panem, where Catching Fire burns its predecessor into ashes. It is much more violent, intense, and darker as we get much closer to the imminent rebellion. Jennifer Lawrence, the Mocking Jay, carries the entire film and makes the franchise much more than just a melodramatic love triangle. But the rest of the cast is exceptional due to all the talent that make their characters stand out as their own and not just some boring character that is just there to stand and smile; not even Effie or Cinna
Hunger Games suffered like any starting for a film as it has the difficulty of presenting to us this new world and characters. But, now, after we can move on with Catching Fire which fully develops their characters and even let the audience enjoy their time in what will eventually be lost in the shuffle of two more sequels, the film takes a much darker and bleaker side of the situations which is very noticeable, especially inside District 12. In the first film, we got only glimpses of how each District is, but here we get into a full view of the entire District 12 such as the coal mines, the houses, forest, town center, and even homes.
More than likely people will notice the differences between the book and the actual film, as it doesn’t have the necessary time to make those scenes of any relevance or importance. But it’s not like they completely ignore it as the film gives a few winks in certain scenes. They help add to the unknown presence that the film always tries to hide; as we are constantly reminded of the rebellion just around the corner and that Katniss, the Mocking Jay, will lead the rebellion. There are scenes in where it symbolizes the sign of hope that must stay alive at all costs. Plus, we get a sense of rebellion from the former victors as they feel robbed, after surviving a 24 men death match for their lives just to go back and do it again is unthinkable which helps add the fuel to the fire.
Plus, the fight scenes have improved greatly as they shown some genuine intense fighting. As we can finally believe, the characters are in grave danger. But the problem still is that we only focus on a small group of the tributes while the other ones are just there for the sake of the games. Due to the lack of time a film has, we only get a short time to focus on any of the tributes that are trying to kill Katniss and Peeta rather just let them be. Also it doesn’t help that none of the other tributes are the main protagonist we have to realize “who the real enemy is”, which of course is the Capital. But when your real enemy is away in a small control center, while Katniss is out in the middle of a huge humid forest, it makes it really hard to show any interest in the bad guy.
Jennifer Lawrence delivers the performance of the entire show as she constantly shows emotions like grief, love, terrification, even PTSD, such as the scene in which she’s hunting with Gale and as she shoots her arrow she is reminded of that young boy she killed in the previous film, all with visible credibility and there are moments where she shows all those emotions at the same time. Plus, the supporting cast is unlike any other franchise. It is full of prestigious award winners but also young Hollywood stars and each of them deliver captivating performances. The new game maker Plutarch Heavensbee, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, is seen as a patient and manipulative man that have much more on his agenda than what it seems. As both the character and the performance make the former game maker look weak.
While Peeta, played by Josh Hutcherson, shows that he just is not useless and starts to show more signs of kindness and, more importantly, defiance. But his chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence and his looks are beaten when compared with Gale’s, played by Liam Hemsworth, as he shows more signs of affection in 10 minutes than Peeta does in an hour. But both actors and characters show signs of maturity as their characters become more developed as they both have to deal with dangerous perils.
On the other side Effie becomes much more than just a pretty clown as she shows the side of the Capital whom are gonna struggle when it comes time for the rebellion and shows much more humanity. Cinna is more than just a costume designer as he shares a secret intimacy with Katniss that only true friends have, which makes some scenes much more painful to watch. Haymitch, played by Woody Harrelson serves as a reminder of what Katniss could become if she just sits there and sulks, which thankfully she does not.
The new tributes like Finnick, Joanna, and Beetee all add something new to the table as each character feels fresh and exciting to watch. Then Finnick, played by Sam Claflin, at first shows to be a very cocky and good looking guy that is obviously very egotistical; but later on he shows so much heart and emotion as he is a man that has so much to lose. There is Joanna, played by Jena Malone, who is probably one of the most unique character introductions and proves to a fierce and cunning lady.
The direction is much smoother and the flow of the entire film goes natural as everything goes through like a manual process. The film moves from one thing to another without taking into consideration of previous events. At times it may seem slow and boring but it starts to automatically get intense with other scenes in where the action and threat are intensifying. Also the fact that President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland, seems much more tyrannical in this film as he summons more “peacekeepers” to maintain his tyranny alive adds to the threat.
Catching Fire is a huge improvement from its predecessor as the direction, performances, and action is about ten times better. As Jennifer Lawrence once again is the girl on fire, but the supporting cast make the film much more memorable as well. No one seems to be a weak link, except the story that seems a bit too clichéd and the lack of pivotal scenes from the book. Plus the film lets the love triangle be almost completely forgotten by the rebellion, which is ultimately beneficial for the film.
But once it gets to the ending the entire film feels lackluster as all the events are quickly being swept under the rug to start getting people ready for the second part Mocking Jay films. It portrays a filler in the eventual four film franchise, that will eventually get lost or forgotten when all the films are released Although, the film shows that the franchise is on the right track and if the crew and cast can continue to deliver astounding work than we better be on the look out for Mocking Jay which is sure to deliver.
Grade: B+, 3 stars