Just when the internet was starting to run out of articles on Jennifer Lawrence, she pulls us right back in.
After the massive success of “The Hunger Games” and an Oscar win for “The Silver Linings Playbook”, Jennifer Lawrence is pretty much the most adored girl in Hollywood. With the release of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, that probably won’t be changing any time soon.
Picking up where its predecessor left off, Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) have returned home to District 12 as victors after surviving the 74th annual Hunger Games, a free-for-all where teenagers fight to the death. Having won by convincing the audience they would rather kill themselves than each other, the two are forced to continue a facade of young love or face the consequences from President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Since their rebellious act was seen as an act of defiance against a tyrannical regime, the pair are eventually forced to re-enter the Hunger Games along with 22 other past victors as part of an anniversary celebration.
Most readers of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy would agree that Catching Fire is the best book of the series and, as such, provides the best material for its film adaptation to work with. While there are a couple of small things cut out for time and pacing, the film is one of the most faithful adaptations in recent memory.
“Catching Fire” director Francis Lawrence does a good job fixing some of the biggest complaints from Gary Ross’ original film, the biggest of which was pacing. Granted a sequel doesn’t have to set up as much backstory as the first film of a series, but “Catching Fire” moves the story along at a pace that feels quick, but not hurried. Another positive note is that, since the Hunger Games competitors are all adults this time around, the audience is not forced to endure as much shaky camerawork to hide the violence against children.
In addition to the change behind the camera, there are a lot of fresh faces in this second installment. The four most notable additions are Philip Seymour Hoffman as the new gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee, Jena Malone as the ax-wielding Johanna, Jeffrey Wright as the brilliant Beetee and Sam Claflin as the pretty boy Finnick Odair. While each of these characters are only in a fraction of the film, each is captured well by their respective actors. Rounding out the rest of a quality cast are Elizabeth Banks as the posh Effie Trinket, Woody Harrelson as Peeta and Katniss’ mentor Haymith Abernathy, Lenny Kravitz as the costume designer Cinna and Stanley Tucci as the talk show host/game commentator Caesar Flickerman. (Are you as tired after reading that as I was after typing it?)
Most, if not all, of these characters are adapted well in the film, but the two who really shine are Effie and Caesar. I can imagine no one else playing these people as well as Banks and Tucci do. Effie is one of the most interesting characters in the whole series as she goes from airhead party girl to someone who has to come to terms with the injustices she smiles through every day. Of course Jennifer Lawrence has made the role of Katniss her own after two films, but these two add a lot of flavor to the story.
It would be easy to compare “Catching Fire” and the rest of the books in this series to the Twilight franchise. After all they are young adult novels with a sci-fi twist and love triangles at the heart of them. However, there is a lot more to the Hunger Games series than shirtless werewolves and hilariously bad romance. This newest film feels more like a political drama than some romance novel left on a dusty shelf. Between the characters, the action sequences and the stunning visuals, there’s a little something for everyone.
Improving on the original, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is a film that taps into varying themes from adventure to political unrest and even science fiction to create an engaging film that can be enjoyed by almost any demographic.