The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Film review: The Hunger Games 2: Catching Fire (2013), directed by Francis Lawrence

hungergamescatchingfireThis review will contain spoilers.

At the end of The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) had jointly won the 74th Hunger Games, much to the chagrin of Panem’s President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Catching Fire picks up some time after the previous instalment in the series.

Katniss and fake boyfriend Peeta are back in snowy District 12, but it’s fair to say both are suffering from PTSD courtesy of the Games. Living in the fancy Victors’ Village and finally having money isn’t much help. Neither is Katniss’s sort-of boyfriend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), who has had to be come a miner, like everyone else.

Going on the Victory Tour with mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and ditzy Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Katniss and Peeta realise that what they’ve done has ignited a rebellion in the other districts, and President Snow is far from happy. Katniss might have fooled the viewers that she and Peeta are a couple, but he’s less easily duped. The so-called couple need to keep up appearances, come what may, or suffer the consequences.

Also starring Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair, Jena Malone as Johanna Mason, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, Willow Shields as Primrose Everdeen, Jeffrey Wright as Beetee, Paula Malcomson as Mrs Everdeen, Toby Jones as Claudius Templesmith, Amanda Plummer as Wiress, Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, and Lynn Cohen as Mags.

When we saw The Hunger Games, I hadn’t read any of the books so I didn’t know what to expect. That posed the problem of the first film not going into enough detail, so when I read the book, I just went “Ohhhhh, so that’s why” a lot of the time. Strangely, because I’ve read all three books before seeing this film, that’s a problem too. Not in the usual way, however. Normally when you’ve read the book before you see the film, you’re unhappy because they haven’t done the book justice, or they’ve left bits out, changed things and so on. That wasn’t my issue here, because frankly, I don’t have a detailed recollection of the book.

My issue was that I knew exactly what was going to happen, which is incredibly strange, considering it wasn’t as if I didn’t know what was going to happen when I went to see the Harry Potter films, or The Hobbit, or whatever. And yet here, for some reason, I was disappointed because I knew exactly how it would end. That the first film would end with Katniss winning or at least surviving the 74th Hunger Games was obvious, knowing that it was based off the first book in a trilogy, but I didn’t know how or why.

On the other hand, the Squeeze knew what was going to happen because some things were glaringly obvious, like the fact that Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, marvellous) is a double agent, that Cinna would get in heaps of trouble for the Mockingjay dress, and that the dome could be short-circuited with lightning. Then again, I’m beginning to wonder if any plot twist can surprise the Squeeze, as he seems to be very adept at figuring out what’s going on.

So … yeah.

Aside from the “well, absolutely nothing new under the sun here” feeling, I thought the film was well-acted (expected as much) with the odd exception, had stunning visuals (also to be expected) and it was nice to see more of Panem than just District 12 and inside some Capitol buildings and the train. It’s well-made and I really can’t fault it, but I’m not in love with it.

They’ve split the final book into two films (because franchise cash cow), so hopefully they will be a bit more interesting than this.

I want to give it a 3, but I don’t think that’s fair, so I’ll say 4 out of 5 whipping posts.

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