Shalom Life | February 14, 2014

REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire had a tough road ahead of it. Luckily, Catching Fire saw that road, shot it up with arrows, lit it on fire, and kept on ploughing forward

By: Jake Horowitz

Published: November 22nd, 2013 in Culture » Film » Reviews

When The Hunger Games arrived in theatres a year and a half ago, it succeeded largely because of one thing; it was actually good. Though the film brought in fans of the original book series, by the time word of mouth started spreading, The Hunger Games was a genuine phenomenon. It had a strong lead actress in Jennifer Lawrence, stellar direction from Gary Ross, and a story that had more depth and emotion than most expected in this post-Twilight world of young adult book adaptations.

But naturally, with expectations high for the sequel, a premise that didn’t seem repeatable, and a new director in Frances Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire had a tough road ahead of it. Luckily, Catching Fire saw that road, shot it up with arrows, lit it on fire, and kept on ploughing forward. The outcome is a film that all at once lives up to its predecessor while laying the groundwork for the finale that’s to come.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire starts off after Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark have won The Hunger Games and are about to embark on their Victor’s Tour. The only problem; since the events of the last film Katniss seems to have sparked a revolution, and her presence in each district keeps ending with bloodshed as the citizens rise up.

With a sequel, generally comes raised stakes and more peril. And though the first Hunger Games film had some of the highest stakes imaginable, thankfully Catching Fire delivers by upping the ante in a believable and palpable way. Gone are the “games” of the first film. What’s left is a frightening world on the brink of a revolution, with Katniss and Peeta in the middle of it.

With Catching Fire, everything that was in the first Hunger Games is still here, it’s just put on display a little better. The performances are great, the direction is quick and fluid, the effects are realistic and not overbearing, and the story is more adult than its source material would have you believe.

It’s with this story that Catching Fire proves its worth as a sequel, as it shows that it’s willing to break the formula of the first film and give the audience something unexpected. A large portion of the film takes place in the streets and away from The Hunger Games arena, and this is where Catching Fire explores themes of oppression, sacrifice, and hope.

It would have been all too easy to fill Catching Fire with scenes of the new Hunger Games arena, the new opponents, the new weapons, and the new threats, but instead we are only treated to this for a fraction of the film. While it’s all still very exciting and very well executed, it’s not nearly as important as what’s surrounding the games and the Victors that are forced to fight in them. And this is something that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire thankfully understands.

Though The Hunger Games was more or less a self-contained film, Catching Fire knows that it has audiences hooked and it doesn’t have to wrap everything up in two and a half hours. It’s because of this luxury that the film is able to set up some exciting possibilities for the two sequels that are to follow without feeling too bogged down in exposition and a rush to answer questions. Though the film ends with a cliffhanger that won’t be resolved at least until The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I comes out next year, Catching Fire is still an explosive film that satisfies on almost every level.

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