Movie Review: The Hunger Games – Catching Fire

Disclaimer! Listen up. This is a movie review. The finale or big twists will get a respectable distance from this review. However, some details will be discussed that you would probably prefer to see on the big screen. So, stay away from this review unless you have already seen this movie. That being said, if you’re on the fence on whether to see it or not, perhaps I can help.

(Source: Lionsgate)

(Source: Lionsgate)

Up until now, we’ve seen Katniss Everdeen as the reluctant heroine that is thrown onto an unwanted situation and must make the best of it and survive. In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire we get the rest of the story after it’s faded to black. The happy ever after is replaced by PR hell. This is where the Battle Royale comparisons end and we get a behind the scenes look at the façade that is a  victor’s life after the games.

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) live on the victor’s village. They’re going on tour. The movie wouldn’t be a teen movie without some unresolved feelings like the ones Katniss has for his childhood friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) BUT surprisingly enough feelings of romance take a backseat in this film to concern for survival. What is at stake here is the life of everyone they love.

As life in the train (it’s a pretty sweet train actually) commences, it’s once again the team of Katniss, Peeta, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks). Haymitch and Effie breathe a lot of life into a situation that would be otherwise dead silent. As the victors of the last Hunger Games, Kat and Peet have to make a presentation on each district, honor their fallen tributes and most important of all, stick to the cards. They don’t. Upon the first visit to District 11, they can’t help but go rogue, inciting a rebellion that gets a very violent reaction by the Peacekeepers. There’s not many movies out there in which teenagers face responsibilities for their actions. This is not a light movie.

The Capitol scenes and the intentionally fake theatrics, as well as the tour give the Hunger Games a very familiar American Idol-esque feel that if it was present in the first movie it’s even more poignant here. We own you, even after you’ve won. You will keep making appearances for us forever. I wonder if Idol’s producers have seen this film and felt uncomfortably referenced.

President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is the great villain here. He’s calculating, he’s calm, he’s cold. Donald Sutherland is in his prime as a very subtle threat is layed upon Katniss. Eventually things start going bad in District 12 too. As the victors stop  Commander Thread from flaying Gail, Snow lays a task upon new Gamemaster Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Find a way to bring Kat and the other victors down for good – or he will eliminate them directly.

And so, we get the Quarter Quell. Basically an all star reunion of all the victors from previous years, two from each district, back for a special edition of the Hunger Games. We get the charismatic Finnick (Sam Claflin) and the almost psychotic Johanna (Jena Malone) as well as a new set of potential allies or baddies that are all older, far more experienced and ready to meet the current victors.

The dystopian world of PanAm is one that is becoming ripe for a revolution. Katniss slowly but surely has to come to terms that is not only her survival paramount but she will also have to accept her role as figurehead of this insurgence. It’s an uneasy, clumsy and jarring process that does put her close to the edge several times – but it gives it more realism. Unlike other teen films that this franchise is often unfairly grouped with, the actual threat is not mere heartbreak but tyranny and death. The unavoidable conflict that will end in a civil war will not be resolved in this movie, but the plans in motion certainly gets some traction… and a few reveals.

Recommended. If you don’t like teenagers, don’t worry. Woody Harrelson is funny, Donald Sutherland is threatening and Philip Seymour Hoffman has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. Amanda Plummer even makes an appearance as Wiress. However, Jennifer Lawrence remains the actress to watch here. Specially on a certain close up at the end.

That will do for now.

(Sources: Lionsgate)

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