Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Year: 2013
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Jena Malone, Sam Claflin, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci

Plot: After winning the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become celebrities. However, their victory has ignited a spark that is leading to a revolution, something which President Snow can't allow. So he organises another Hunger Games, where previous victors from all 12 districts are chosen to fight to the death.

Review: I didn't like the first Hunger Games as much as most people, due to the shaky camerawork and lack of urgency once the carnage started. This time around, these two problems are somewhat addressed, and though not completely rectified, it made for a better film.

But in reality, The Hunger Games isn't about the battle, it's about the drama that leads to it. It's about Katniss' desperation to survive in a world where the odds are not in her favor, and how her decisions affect the people around her, from her family and friends to the general people. In this sense, this sequel delivers.

Despite clocking in at 146 minutes, the film doesn't feel draggy and the solid script gives the audience a chance to care about Katniss and the other characters. Director Francis Lawrence ensures nearly every character gets their time on screen, though I would appreciate it if he gave Paula Malcolmson, who plays Katniss' mother, more time as she was barely visible.

Jennifer Lawrence puts in an excellent performance as Katniss, who is torn between wanting to protect her family by putting up an act as per President Snow's orders, and trying to care about other people around her. I'd expect Katniss to be an inspiration to young girls everywhere by now. Josh Hutcherson provides strong support as Peeta, becoming more and more vital to the story as it goes along, but still playing second fiddle to Katniss. Liam Hemsworth is reliable enough as Katniss' boyfriend Gale, and thankfully we are mostly spared the love triangle that is already existent. Woody Harrelson is always in form as Katniss and Peeta's mentor Haymitch, while Donald Sutherland's calm demeanor is perfect for the diabolical President Snow.

As for the new additions, Jena Malone stands out the most as District 7 victor Johanna Mason, whose sexy and defiant personality is the perfect opposite of Katniss. Philip Seymour Hoffman puts in his usual subtle touch as new gameskeeper Plutarch Heavensbee (where do they come up with these names?) and it works. Sam Claflin and Jeffrey Wright also do quite well as former victors Finnick Odair and Beetee respectively, the former an alpha male type guy, the latter a thinker of sorts. Elizabeth Banks returns as Effie and portrays her character better than the last time, though I'm still not fond of that character, while Lenny Kravitz and Stanley Tucci get little screen time but still make an impression.

Though the shaky camerawork was reduced somewhat, the fight scenes still appear blurry thanks to Francis filming them too close (I'll say it again, call Zack Snyder). The lack of urgency was fixed by having more threats appear in between fights, but it would be better if Francis improved the lighting during those scenes. The ending was also rather abrupt, but the twist that came with it sets up the third film nicely.

Overall, it's an improvement from the first instalment, thanks to a solid script and a fine performance from Jennifer Lawrence. (4/5) 

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