By Paul Kates
Nov 19, 2013 09:28 AM EST

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Theatrical Review

Great news for fans of The Hunger Games: the girl is on fire again and burning just as brightly as before.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Theatrical Review
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Great news for fans of The Hunger Games: the girl is on fire again and burning just as brightly as before. The second movie in the popular franchise, Catching Fire, opens where the first movie left off, with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, X-Men: First ClassSilver Linings Playbook) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson, Journey 2: The Mysterious IslandRed Dawn) back home. Victorious in the 74th Hunger Games, which saw the pair become the sweethearts of a nation, but before being able to find their way back into their "normal" lives, the pair are sent on a victory tour of the districts of post-apocalyptic Panem. This is something neither of them really feels at ease with, but in a world ruled by the totalitarian hand of President Snow (Donald Sutherland), they do like most do as is needed to survive, and toe the line.

Set to the backdrop of this tour, the tributes from District 12 see first-hand what life is like for the normal working citizen, which in some cases is little more than slavery. They witness first-hand the daily poverty many live through as a result of the barbarity of a regime that many seem wanting to change. But to Katniss's surprise, after her exploits in the game arena, many now see her as the figurehead that could force through change. President Snow, though, is not one for giving up his power-hold without a fight, and with a new game maker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) by his side, he sets in place a game to put an end to the thorn in his side that is Katniss Everdeen: a "Quarter Quell" pitting victor against victor where only one will survive.

The original Hunger Games was such a phenomenal hit in 2012, there was no surprise a second movie would come along, and you'll be glad to hear thatCatching Fire is a worthy follow up. If you were a fan of the first, you will no doubt enjoy the second just as much. Production continuity is maintained well, with Francis Lawrence once again directing, with the author of the novels Suzanne Collins advising on the script by award-winning screenwriters Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt. Beaufoy and Arndt's script leads you straight into the story, with little need to getting to know main characters once again, but where development is needed, it's there.

Graphically, Catching Fire is superior to the first movie, sweeping vistas of both countryside and city look very impressive on the big screen — every cent spent on them was a cent worth spending. All this leads to a smooth run building up in intensity to the Quarter Quell. You know what you're going to get once into this portion of the movie, but there are subtle differences that keep the story interesting.

Jennifer Lawrence is again superb in the role of Katniss, a slightly changed role as the experiences of the games has changed the way she sees the world, a little more mature, love torn between Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth), not knowing what's best for her, while still attempting to put others ahead of herself. Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland, and Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy are very accomplished in reprising roles

But out of new characters, Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master) as the new games maker and Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman) as Finnick Odair are the pick of the bunch, both slightly mysterious — you never really get to see what they are up to until the last scene, not edge of your seat stuff, but surprising if, like me, you have not read the books.

There are not many sequels that surpass their original titles and this one is no exception. Instead, Catching Fire is one of those rare gems that's equally as entertaining as its predecessor. It's a well-directed story, with great cinematography to boot, and costumes that would not look out of place in Elton John's wardrobe. Undoubtedly this will be a sure-fire hit which you will not want to miss.

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MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 146 minutes
Distributed By: Lionsgate

For more information about The Hunger Games: Catching Fire visit the FlickDirect Movie Database.

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