Sunday, December 1, 2013

Review: "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"

Jennifer Lawrence's career has exploded in the past year. Since starring in The Hunger Games in early 2012, Lawrence has become the belle of Hollywood, winning the Best Actress Academy Award for her role in David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook. Her Oscar-winning role was not necessarily appropriate for her tween crowd, but she roars back to the screen with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second book in Suzanne Collins' wildly popular dystopian young adult series. Lawrence's acting skills are not necessarily the highlight of Catching Fire - she is not even the best part of the film! This time around, that honour goes to Jena Malone. Malone absolutely sinks her teeth into the outrageous role of Johanna Mason. Stanley Tucci, as Caesar Flickerman, comes a close second. Tucci is an absolute expert as stealing scenes. Catching Fire allows for some talented adults to be cast alongside the youth of the first film. Jeffrey Wright, as Beetee, and Amanda Plummer, as Wiress, are excellent choices for the film. Lawrence has directed three films I have never had an interest in seeing: Constantine (2005), I Am Legend (2007) and Water For Elephants (2011). He has also had a prolific career as a music video director, directing videos for Destiny's Child, Nelly Furtado, Lady Gaga and Janet Jackson. The arena for the film is much more realistic than the first film - which I just re-watched - but the CGI effects still come off as too generic. The film works too hard to cover the atmosphere of Panem at the beginning of the film. It is necessary to understand Katniss' relationships with Peeta and with Gale, but the film makes it come across as filler when the book makes the story more believable. The film begins to focus more on the secondary characters this time around and that gives the film a deeper focus. Catching Fire is a respectable and satisfying second chapter to The Hunger Games story. Jennifer Lawrence is great Katniss, but the actors around her are starting to overtake her.

After Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are named victors of the 74th Hunger Games, they return home to District 12. Katniss has become more emotionally distant and she struggles to retain her relationship with Gale (Liam Hemsworth). President Snow (Donald Sutherland) arrives in District 12 on the day Katniss and Peeta are to begin a victory tour of Panem. Snow threatens that Katniss must convince the country and Snow himself that she truly loves Peeta. In District 11, it becomes clear that there is discontent amongst the residents. Snow announces that the 75th Hunger Games, the third Quarter Quell, will features tributes chosen solely from the districts' victors. Katniss is District 12's only female victor. Her male counterpart will be either Peeta or Haymitch (Woody Harrelson). The Capitol's new Head Gamemaster, Plutarrch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), reveals that his arena will be the most challenging to date. Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) and Effie (Elizabeth Banks) return as members of Katniss' team. Sam Claflin (Finnick), Jena Malone (Johanna), Lynn Cohen (Mags), Meta Golding (Enobaria), ALan Ritchson (Gloss) and Maria Howell (Seeder) star as tributes from other districts.

There is quite a lot of story to get through in Collins' novel. Catching Fire is the pivotal novel in The Hunger Games trilogy. I was impressed with the story, but the story's final chapter, Mockingjay, was a disappointment. I am not sure that the story truly needs to be separated into two films. Francis Lawrence will director The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, to be released in 2014 and 2015, respectively. The story does not have the emotional complexity of Harry Potter, which after a decade of films, seemed destined to turn the final chapter into two films. And now, with Twilight's Breaking Dawn having released two films, it seems like standard practice. For the average moviegoer, this can be seen simply as a cash grab. The Hunger Games franchise will soon have to compete with Divergent (to be released on March 21), the first film in Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy. Both films are set in post-apocalyptic futures and both feature strong female characters. Coincidentally, both film series are being distributed by Lionsgate Films. Lionsgate also purchased the rights to the Chaos Walking trilogy. Written by one of my favourite authors, Patrick Ness, the post-apocalyptic young adult trilogy finally features a male character at its centre. At this point, no further information has been released. At its core, The Onion capture Catching Fire perfectly in this video review. No matter what, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has been made to please teens and pre-teens. It could have been a much deeper and affecting film, but it would not have entertained the masses.

My rating: 3 stars out of 4.

1 comment:

  1. It's true Grace, there's a very fine line between something genius and something very disturbing. That's for sure!