The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Courtesy of Lionsgate.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the second film of the thrilling series based on the Suzanne Collins novels to hit the big screen.

Much like the first film, the second film brings justice to the book. Yes, there are changes from the book but they work in the long-term. Mind you, it’s been just over a decade since reading the books but I jotted down some notes upon the film’s release.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is back at home following the 74th Annual Hunger Games win. Katniss has some time to rest and hang out with her family and childhood friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). It isn’t much time, however, as she sets off for the Victor’s Tour with co-winner Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Things are going to be different this time around. One, there’s a rebellion brewing but as long as President Snow and the Capitol are in control, the status quo remains. What makes things different with the 75th games is that it is also the 3rd Quarter Quell, bringing back former victors. Everything that we know about Panem is about to change. Of course, the film ends on a cliffhanger, thus paving the way for Mockingjay – Part 1.

In this particular game, it’s all about making allies. However, there’s something going that neither Peeta or Katniss know about. It’s best that they don’t know what’s going on in the event that they get captured. But in any event, many of the other tributes know what’s going on and get behind it. This includes Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), Mags (Lynn Cohen), and Johanna Mason (Jena Malone). As the film comes to an end, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), and a few of the survivors are heading for the mysterious District 13. The others, as we soon learn, are captured by the Capitol.

Unlike the first film, Suzanne Collins is not one of the credited screenwriters. Instead, Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt take over the screenwriting duties. Meanwhile, Francis Lawrence takes over for Gary Ross and will stay on for the rest of the franchise. This is a film that moves the story along at a quick pace while exploring some of the  franchise’s themes. Both the sequel and its predecessor run just shy of two and a half hours. Honestly, I do not see a way in which these films can be any shorter than they are. What are you going to cut for time? Personally, I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

Production on the sequel takes place in Georgia, New Jersey, and Universal Studios. This is in lieu of filming in North Carolina like the first film. Honestly, you wouldn’t even notice unless somebody said something.

Overall, this is a much better film than its predecessor. Sequels have a way of going one of two ways. They can be like The Empire Strikes Back and Spider-Man 2 or they can be rather forgettable. Thankfully, this film falls into the former category. This film has a lot going for it because it has to pave the way for the coming rebellion. Make no mistake that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the best of the sequels and maybe even the best film of the franchise.

DIRECTOR: Francis Lawrence
SCREENWRITERS: Simon Beaufoy and Michael deBruyn (Michael Arndt)
CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, with Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland

Lionsgate released The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in theaters on November 22, 2013. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.