By Samantha McManus
Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence did not let the audience down in this exciting sequel to “The Hunger Games”. An action/adventure plot with science-fiction elements, a stellar cast, wonderful special effects, and an unexpected plot twist make “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” a must see. With a running time of two hours and 26 minutes the movie is long, but I assure you when it ends you will be wishing you could just watch the final installment right then. I must admit I was not very impressed with the first film installment of “The Hunger Games” trilogy, but this follow-up had me at the edge of my seat the entire time.
“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” begins where the first installment left the us; Katniss is back in her home district and ready to go on her victory tour with Peeta. They find rebellion brewing in almost all of the districts due to them standing up to the capitol in the last movie, causing the government to use heavy force to suppress it. In the beginning, the two protagonists follow orders and try not to encourage the uprising, but as the plot thickens so do the stakes.
Angered by the uprisings, President Snow played by the terrifying Donald Sutherland, decides to make drastic changes to the rules of the Games this year. Instead of choosing two random people from each district, all of the contestants will instead be drawn from a pool of existing winners from each district. The goal of Snow and his government is to kill Katniss in a way that won’t make her out to be a martyr, and since Katniss was the only female from District 12 to ever win, she is automatically re-entered into the Hunger Games. None of the past winners that are chosen are happy about Snow’s new rules.
The pacing of the movie worked very well, and the time in the arena is the majority of the film. Although I had expected to see more violence in the film due to the contestants all being veterans of the Games, the challenges the main characters face are both horrifying and suspenseful. The plot has many twists and turns that kept me engaged and on the edge of my seat. The new cast of characters is a nice change of pace as they are a lot more interesting than the first time around, but don’t worry- you also get all the old favorites back.
The renowned Philip Seymour Hoffman makes an appearance as the new Game Master for the Hunger Games. He does a great job and never makes the audience doubt his authenticity. Jena Malone, who plays the firecracker Johanna, does a great job being a pissed off, headstrong, independent woman, and by the end of the movie you really do fall in love with her. Woody Harrelson is back to provide the brief comic relief while also being a strong and smart support for Katniss and Peeta as well. Elizabeth Banks also provides some comic relief and although you can hardly recognize her in the crazy hair and make-up she wears as Effie, she is definitely still the amazing actress we know her to be. Josh Hutcherson, the beloved Peeta, has greatly improved from the last film. He invokes sympathy from the audience, and still manages to pull off being brave and selfless. Finally, Jennifer Lawrence makes it clear why she won an academy award in this film. There are several intense moments throughout the film where great acting chops are really needed, and despite her age she pulled through every time. Her acting skills gave me chills, along with the entire cast. It is easy to forget that this is a scripted film because of their superb acting ability.
I came into this film just looking for something to do for a few hours and came out with a whole new appreciation for this series. As someone who did not read the books I would definitely recommend it to others who couldn’t find time to read them either. They definitely stand on their own and this second feature outshines the first by a long shot. I know the second part of “The Hobbit” is out now too, but you should definitely give “The Hunger Games” installments a chance if you haven’t already.