Hunger Games is a worldwide best-selling Young Adult Novel made famous by Suzanne Collins that has a huge cult-following and when the movie adaptation took a huge splash on the big screen in 2012, this cult-following just got a little bigger. A year later and an Academy Award for her exceptional performance in Silver Linings Playbook, Jennifer Lawrence returns as the girl on fire Katniss Everdeen in the highly anticipated sequel for The Hunger Games—The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
The sequel tells the story after the events of the first movie, wherein Katniss and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) tricked the game makers and were declared the very-first double Victors of Panem’s 74th Annual Hunger Games. The said trickery made a surprising uproar against the government. Now Katniss and Peeta have returned home safe, but because they have won, they must turn around and leave their families and close friends, embarking on a “Victors Tour” of the districts. While they are on tour, Katniss senses that a rebellion is brewing. Of course it’s not only her who feels the uprising, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) senses that as well, so to show that the Capitol is still very much in control, the President prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (also known as The Quarter Quell) with a twist that could change Panem forever — that the Tributes from each district will be chosen from the pool of all past Victors.
Movies come and go, some have original screenplays, and others are adapted from a beloved novel and in the case of The Hunger Games novels, I have read the books and loved Catching Fire, even more than the first. I am usually critical when it comes to books being overhauled into the big screen, but I still found myself getting engrossed with the whole action, drama, and the bumps and turns that the movie offered, even though I knew what was going to happen. And the cliffhanger at the end was the exact scenario with that of the book, leaving the movie fans as well as the fans of the book craving for more, that I would want to immediately queue in for the climactic, dark finale in Mockingjay, which will be divided in two parts.
Director Francis Lawrence – who replaced Gary Ross, the guy who made the first Hunger Games good but wobbly to say the least – did not waste time for any big changes from the book as he just laid everything “by-the-book.” And there’s that. This is by far one of the most closely-adapted screenplays in recent memory and I am entirely not complaining about it because I utterly enjoyed every minute of it! Lawrence slayed the action scenes with top-notched pacing and acting, while providing a more powerful, off-putting, gritty visualization – from the inferior districts cowering in poverty and trepidation, to the contrasting, tremendously over-the-top grandiosity of Panem’s business district, the Capitol. The budget was nearly twice as big as the first one, and it really showed on-screen, with nomination-worthy special effects, set designs and costumes.
And let me talk about the cast. The cast is immensely remarkable —from the usually-exceptional Lawrence, who shows the world that she can do almost every role possible by being both stubborn and vulnerable while staying meek and youthful, to her two screen partners Hutcherson (who shines with his undeniable charm) and Liam Hemsworth (who proves that he has a potential to be the future matinee action star), to the rest of the returning cast led by Woody Harrelson (who does a believable performance of drunkard Haymitch), Elizabeth Banks (who rounds up Katniss and Peeta’s team as the flamboyant Effie Trinket), Donald Sutherland (who delivers a more chilling performance of the President), Lenny Kravitz (as Katniss dependable stylist Cinna), and Stanley Tucci (who dazzles once more as the host of the Game). Plus, we get to be mesmerized by the addition of one of my favorite character actors, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, as the new game maker Plutarch Heavensbee.
Even with all the special effects and intense action, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a story of a girl who defies the odds and is being elevated, even against her will, at the vanguard of a rebellion. With a shattering success that this film is currently receiving, both at the box office and with the critics, I would say that the odds of The Hunger Games franchise being a modern-day classic are “ever in its favor.”
4.5 out of 5 stars.