A year after winning the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and her partner, Peeta Mellark must go on what is known as the Victor's Tour wherein they visit all the districts. But before leaving, Katniss is visited by President Snow who fears that Katniss defied him a year ago during the games when she chose to die with Peeta. With both Katniss and Peeta declared the winners, it is fueling a possible uprising. He tells Katniss that while on tour she better try to make sure that she puts out the flames or else everyone she cares about will be in danger. But unfortunately she fails to do that. So Snow decides to enact what is known as the Quarter Quell, the right to make a change to the Hunger Games, which he is allowed to do every 25 years. He decides to hold an edition of the Hunger Games wherein previous winners will compete again. Their mentor Haymitch thinks their best chance to survive is form an alliance with some of the others. They decide to align themselves with Finnick and ... Written by
A Surprisingly Good Movie That Surpasses It's Predecessor In Every Way
I wouldn't exactly call myself a fan of the books, but I did enjoy Hunger Games, despite it's tweenie appeal. I'm a sucker for these kinds of things. Maybe it's the Battle Royale and Lord of the Flies fan in me. I did enjoy the first movie. It was a very well done adaptation. However, having read the entire trilogy, I feared that adapting the rest of the material would result in something similar to the books: terrible follow ups. As someone who takes the content of these books and the things that themes and stories they are trying to tell just a bit more seriously than the target age group might, I groaned and moaned throughout the novels, especially the last one. However, the film has done something I didn't think it could do: not suck.
That's right, the movie does not suck. In fact, it's actually quite good. So good that it out does The Hunger Games in nearly every way, something that is quite the opposite of the novel. Where the original movie, while good, also came off feeling like it was feeding that tweenie audience it was aimed at, something about Catching Fire feels far more serious and far more mature. The film picks up right where we left off. Katniss and Peeta are on their victory tour, while the rest of the districts are showing signs of civil unrest due to Katniss defiance of The Capitol, that oppressive government regime that forces districts to send their children to die. To send a message to the districts that the capitol is still evil, they devise a new Hunger Games, this time forcing past victors back into the arena. Because what is a Hunger Games movie without the Hunger Games.
The first film, at times, felt like it was doing too much to introduce us into this world. Everything felt like some kind of obvious plot detail. While I enjoyed the film, I often felt disconnected to it and the issues it tried to present. There was so much focus on details of the world and the games, that the presentation of the world seemed to take a back seat. Lawrence was the major saving grace, though even she wasn't perfect. All of this has changed. With the games essentially taking a secondary part in the film, there is a stronger emotional connection. It helps that all the actors involved are not only a bigger part of the film but seem to be more comfortable and are much more convincing in their roles. Where the characters of Effie and Haymitch and even Gale seemed purpose driven, with little more than a role to fill, here they feel more fleshed out. They have a greater impact and there is more of an emotional connection, from Haymitch's clear frustration between his contempt for the Capitol and his attempts to keep Katniss and Peeta alive, to Effie's attempt to keep everyone as a team and sure signs that she is struggling with the facts of Katniss and Peeta once again thrown into turmoil.
The performances are the primary strength here. They do deliver on the emotion that is necessary to drive this story and don't feel like they are catering just to tweens, with the poorly written love triangle of the novel and the more trivial elements that are apart of the kind of writing that comes with novels aimed at tweens. Catching Fire feels like a serious movie with a serious story to tell. At it's heart is Jennifer Lawrence, who seems like a completely different person here. Since the original movie, as an actor, Lawrence has had several projects and has even won an Oscar. And so, it is no surprise that she feels like she is at an entirely different level. She seems more natural as Katniss and her acting is far more convincing. She comes off as someone who is not only conflicted, but scared. Even so, she remains strong and determined. Much like the first movie, as Katniss, she proves to be among the best of role models for young folk.
But beyond the performances, everything just feels elevated. The story has a better focus on the growing revolution that is clearly starting. The themes are more apparent and focused on. Everything feels less obvious and more natural. Gone are introductions to this world and it's elements, replaced by a futuristic vision carried purely by it's story and characters. Even the games are better, with more exciting action, better effects, and better character interaction, helped by a cast of new characters as fellow tributes.
I do seem to be gushing about the film, and it's not one I had expected to like nearly as much as I did, but I have to admit it: this was a very pleasant surprise. My fear now is that the next films won't live up to this sequel. But, I will give them more of the benefit of the doubt, considering how much this film blew me away as far as surpassing expectations. As I said in my review for the first film, fans will love this, and non-fans may also find themselves won over.
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