Synopsis: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire begins as Katniss Everdeen has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a “Victor’s Tour” of the districts. Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) – a competition that could change Panem forever.
Release Date: November 22, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Action
Ever since the Harry Potter and Twilight series have run their courses, teenagers have grasped onto The Hunger Games as their bated-breath, midnight-line waiting movie franchise. The second film of the series, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, is a great continuation of the saga.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (“Catching Fire“) picks up where The Hunger Games left off; Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence from Silver Linings Playbook) and Peeta Mellark (Bridge to Terabithia‘s Josh Hutcherson) have just won the Hunger Games and are embarking on their Victory Tour through the districts with their mentor, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson from Zombieland). Before they leave, Katniss gets a surprise visit from President Snow (Ordinary People‘s Donald Sutherland) who lets her know that he does not believe the story of her and Peeta being in love that the couple cooked up to win the Games, but encourages her to keep up the charade in order to not undermine the Capitol’s authority. On their Victory Tour, Katniss and Peeta act just as in love as they are supposed to be, but they notice unrest in the districts. Snow sees that the star-crossed lovers have become a symbol of hope for the downtrodden districts. To curtail a rebellion, Snow enlists new Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman from The Master) to put a twist on the next Hunger Games…one that will get rid of all of their problems at the same time.
Considering that it’s a different director and team of screenwriters, there is a surprising continuity between The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. This time around, director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants) is at the helm while screenwriters Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Oblivion) handle the script. Despite the changing of the guard, Catching Fire looks and feels just like The Hunger Games, from the lavish set dressing and gritty cinematography to the familiar source material and completely reassembled cast. Those who were captivated by The Hunger Games will have no trouble losing themselves in Catching Fire.
Whereas The Hunger Games was Katniss’ story, Catching Fire belongs to both Katniss and Peeta; everyone else is just a cog in their wheel. Luckily for everyone, the characters are likable and relatable, so their story is compelling and worth watching. Catching Fire is dark and dystopian, with just a splash of hope that keeps it alive. It also has enough of the spirit of The Hunger Games to give it the same kind of bite.
Although fans of The Hunger Games will love Catching Fire, it may have a bit of trouble finding a crossover audience. The only problem with Catching Fire is that it relies heavily on knowledge of the previous film. It doesn’t stand alone as well as it should, feeling like a placeholder between two other films. And, by now, everyone knows that there will be more Hunger Games films. If The Hunger Games saga was the Star Wars trilogy, then Catching Fire is a suitable The Empire Strikes Back; it’s dark, it ends on a bit of a downer, but it sets up the next film beautifully. And it will probably end up being everyone’s favorite of the series.
Many of the big fan complaints about The Hunger Games were that the film didn’t follow Suzanne Collins’ book closely enough. This is an obvious hurdle when trying to condense a 400 page book into a movie, even if it’s a two and a half hour movie; something has to be left out. In Catching Fire, there are parts of the novel that get left out as well, but it’s hardly noticeable. The omitted elements help to streamline the storyline and keep the pacing on track. Suzanne Collins’ book is told in the first person by Katniss, so all of her thoughts and feelings are made known. While Jennifer Lawrence does a great job at communicating without words, screenwriters Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt give her a little help by adding a few scenes between Snow and Plutarch that explain things that are happening a bit better and provide some added exposition. What are subtleties and hunches in the book become concrete facts in the movie. This is much better than the alternative; having a running Katniss voiceover narrating the entire film from the confines of her head. Any book adaptation is bound to differ somewhat from the source material, but Beaufoy and Arndt have done a nice job figuring out what to keep, what to snip, and what to tweak in order to make Catching Fire a great film.
The entire cast of The Hunger Games is back in Catching Fire (with the exception of Buttercup, the cat), and it is evident that each actor is completely comfortable in their role. The film revolves completely around Katniss and Peeta, and both Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson become immersed in their alter egos. The supporting cast is excellent, full of big names that deliver standout performances. Of course, Woody Harrelson is great as Haymitch, handling his part so well that the viewer wonders if he’s even acting. Donald Sutherland and Philip Seymour Hoffman make outstanding smarmy villains. Elizabeth Banks (Zack and Miri Make a Porno) is endearingly annoying as Effie Trinket, while rock star Lenny Kravitz shines as Cinna, the one person in the capitol whom Katniss trusts. Liam Hemsworth (Paranoia) makes the most of his too-small role playing Gale, Katniss’ best friend, who is poised to be featured more prominently in the upcoming Hunger Games films. Stanley Tucci (The Fifth Estate) has way too much fun being Caesar Flickerman, the Games’ television host. And then there are the other Victors, characters who are part emotional crutch and part action hero; Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction), Jena Malone (Sucker Punch), Jeffrey Wright (Quantum of Solace), and Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman) all contribute to the melee. Catching Fire has blockbuster talent, and not just in the leads; every little part seemingly has a big star attached, and it shows in the performances.
Visually, Catching Fire is nothing short of a spectacle and, while there is plenty of CGI effects, most of the look and feel of the film comes from production designer Philip Messina (The Hunger Games, Traffic). Working with art director John Collins (The Hunger Games) and costume designer Trish Summerville (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Messina creates a dichotomous world which is half utopia and half dystopia, a definite line between the rich excess of the capitol and the impoverished oppression of the districts. The capitol residents are flamboyant and surreal, clothed in bright colors with outlandish fashions while the people in the districts are dressed in soiled rags. The buildings in the capital are large and modern while the structures in the districts are little more than shacks. Even furnishings in rooms differ, with high-tech gadgets in the capitol and primitive tools in the districts. Catching Fire is an ambitious project, but Messina and his team leave nothing to chance; they pay close attention to every little detail to give the film its distinct look.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Francis Lawrence
- Screenwriter(s): Simon BeaufoyMichael Arndt
- Cast: Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen)Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark)Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne) Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket)Sam Claflin (Finnick)Jena Malone (Johanna)Woody Harrelson (Haymitch)Alan Ritchson (Gloss)Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman)Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee)Donald Sutherland (President Snow)
- Editor(s): Alan Edward Bell
- Cinematographer: Jo Willems
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: James Newton Howard
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA