Everyone’s favorite victors screen in love in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) outsmarted the devious and tyrannical President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and his cabinet of men and women in charge of the 74th annual Hunger Games, which serves as the twisted reminder to the districts of Panem that the Capitol completely controls their lives. But the trials and suffering of these two young people aren’t over yet. Forced to re-enact their starcrossed lovers routine, Katniss and Peeta must travel through the other 11 districts afore the Victor’s Tour. However, instead of convincing the people of Panem of their love and calming them, the two only seem to inspire rebellion against the Capitol. In an attempt to assure his power and to smother rebellion, President Snow announces a reminder to the districts that not even the strongest among them can stand against the Capitol. The tributes for the 75th Hunger Games, a Quarter Quell, will not be reaped from the usual 12 to 18 year-old children but rather from the existing pool of victors. This means one of the worst possible fates for Katniss: as the only female victor from District 12, she has no choice but to play the Capitol’s sick game once again, only this time she intends to save Peeta instead of herself.
Guided by a rarely sober Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and mostly-clueless Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Peeta and Katniss work/fight their way to the top of the list of tributes—both a good and a bad thing. The star-crossed lovers win allies and battles, and suffer losses they never imagined possible. With half of the tributes as well as the government against her, Katniss must fight harder than ever to survive, or even to keep Peeta safe. In the end, is there a victor, or is it time for all-out war?
Returning characters included Katniss’ mother (Paula Malcolmson)and sister Primrose (Willow Shields), her stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravutz), Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and Caesar Flickerman (Stanely Tucci). New characters that stole the spotlight include the cocky and swoon-worthy Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), the stonehearted Johanna Mason (Jena Malone), the new Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and of course, the loveable and selfless Mags (Lynn Cohen). With all their talent, these actors did a wonderful job of portraying their characters. However, some may have gone a little overboard.
President Snow is a coldhearted man who revels in his absolute power, but Sutherland, although a good actor, certainly does not instill the type of fear and unease in viewers as the character in the book does. Katniss sometimes seemed a bit too “girly” than her character generally calls for; Hemsworth and Lawrence shared a few too many on-screen kisses and moments than necessary or that were originally dictated by the book. Harrelson’s character Haymitch and Banks’ Effie are there for comic relief, which they do very well. Jennifer Lawrence proves that she is the Queen of Facial Expressions, especially during a certain awkward-but-hilarious scene in an elevator.
With all the colors and strange outfits, this movie is a costume and make-up designer’s dream come true. The set designer for Catching Fire likely had an interesting fight with the design as well, with the extreme differences between the districts, the Capitol, and the arena. Thankfully, the infamous “shaky camera” from the first movie was removed—even though some felt that it may have helped capture the intense, shaky mood of the movie—however, the videography is still rather choppy and cuts between shots suddenly and usually without much transition.
Despite it’s flaws, Catching Fire certainly has it’s positives. The movie does a pretty good job of sticking to the book, which is almost always a plus. The action scenes are intense and have a way of holding the audience’s attention, although there are dull moments throughout the movie. The acting, costumes, make-up, and sets were wonderful and did a great job of capturing the feel of Suzanne Collins’ books. All-in-all, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire isn’t perfect, but it’s good and definitely worth seeing.