by Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)
It was March 23rd, 2012 when Suzanne Collins’ much anticipated book to movie adaptation hit theaters, taking the entertainment industry by storm. The Hunger Games had gained world renown success with it’s story of children, in a fight to the death battle, who defied a government and set into motion a symbol of hope for the people of Panem. The film went on to make $691 million dollars worldwide. Now, a year later (well almost two years actually), the sequel to the Huger Games has finally arrived in theaters, and it does not disappoint. It’s more of the norm for a sequel to not quite live up to the level set by its predecessor, but The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is not the norm, delivering on all fronts and becoming a film of its own. Francis Lawrence (Constantine, I Am Legend) helms the film and guides it to new heights within the world of Panem.
Life hasn’t been the same for Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) or Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) after winning the Hunger Games. They’ve had to keep up the charade of being in love while trying to go back and have a “normal” life in District 12. But President Snow (Donald Sutherland) doesn’t buy it and realizes that their defiance in the arena, by threatening to eat the poison berries, has now shown the country that others can defy the government also. So he, along with a new games master, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymore Hoffman), decide that for the 75th Hunger Games, also known as the Quarter Qwell, the new tributes would be chosen out of the victors from all of the previous games. After all, if one victor feels she can defy the government, this would make the rest feel they can as well, right? Thus President Snow calmly states her breed needs to be exterminated.
Once again, Katniss and Peeta are to compete for their lives, but this time it is against all of the other victors. And if the notion of their last victory being “easy” even crossed their mind, it would be all but gone knowing who they faced this time around. But with Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) in their corner once again, they have a shot. They’ll need to form alliances in order to survive, but can people like FInnick Odaire (Sam Claflin) and Johana Mason (Jena Malon) be trusted? And, to top it off, this time around,, they are not only fighting for their lives, but the lives of everyone in District 12 and the lives of everyone in the other districts who have grown tired of the government and decided to rise up against their oppressors thanks to the display shown by Katniss and Peeta but a year ago.
No one would say that, after the success of the first entry, the actors were now “going through the motions”. Everyone has stepped up their acting game and deliver wonderful performances across the board. Jennifer Lawrence has so much more emotional depth than it had in the Hunger Games (and that’s not to say there was a lack of it there). She deals with the consequences of her actions in the first arena with what one could say are elements of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as the new threat with citizens being killed who support her. She also has the love of her family potentially being stripped from her and the love triangle between her, Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Lawrence displays a multi-layered character with all of the frailties that goes with being human. Woody Harrelson and Donald Sutherland each command the screen, the times they are on it, and Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson provide great support roles in their time with Lawrence. Stanley Tucci is even more remarkable this time around as Caesar Flickerman, and is an absolute delight to watch perform in this film.
One element that director Francis Lawrence brought to this film is that of humanity, and how frail we really are. While we were able to experience this at times in The Hunger Games with scenes like the death of Rue. These elements are heightened this time around. From the flashbacks that Katniss has while out hunting or in her dreams, to the love and care Finnick has for Mags, Francis Lawrence reminds us that there are much bigger things in the world and that, we too, are but human. While Peeta and Gale fight for the love of the same woman and are willing to sacrifice for her, they, too, would be willing to sacrifice for one another. In a world as difficult as the one they live in, no one can go at it alone. As humans, they need each other for love, compassion, someone to talk to, much as we do outside the film.
With the second installment of a four part series now in the can (yes, I said four part, Mockingjay is being made into two films), The Hunger Games has become a series which fans and moviegoers alike now highly crave rather than merely accept like, say, a Twilight sequel. And with nine Oscar nominations among the cast, five Oscar nods among the writers, can we expect any less? Again, it is rare when a sequel builds upon its predecessor and elevates itself into a new movie stratosphere, topping what was laid before it, but The Hunger Games: Catching Fire does just that. Catching Fire brings the heat and, if the end at all reveals anything about the mindset of Katniss Everdeen in the Mockingjay, this girl is really going to be on fire.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars