The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (dir. Francis Lawrence, 2013) – Katniss finds herself the target of the Capitol after her victory at the Games sparked a rebellion in the Districts of Panem.
Catching Fire finds the emotional spark its predecessor lacked and proves an incendiary improvement.
A year has passed since the Capitol’s televised death match closed on an unexpected note. Katniss Everdeen’s homecoming has given her little rest, if any at all. Her act of both survival and rebellion leaves her in constant fear of its implications. There is no doubt of what will come, only questions of when.
While the first instalment of The Hunger Games left the franchise twisting in the wind, Catching Fire puts it back right on track. The excellent sequel goes beyond the brutality of the arena. Focus falls on the fascinating political allegory that follows the far-reaching consequences of one girl’s defence against her fate. After all, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games has never been about blood or violence, but the society built upon it.
We have Francis Lawrence to thank for the welcome change in direction and a stronger script that surpass its predecessor by a mile. The new director at helm manages to find the franchise the spark that it needed. This goes beyond the revamped arena and bigger visual effects. We begin not with the action in the Games, but with what makes the film ultimately memorable – the deeper, emotional focus on the characters.
We see President Snow’s fear of an uprising in his ruthless public crackdown in the districts. We see victims in the citizens, Rue’s mourning family, and Gale, who is no longer just a romantic rival on the sidelines. Most of all, we see Katniss Everdeen’s impact. She finally steps up to show the districts that their lives are their own and not the state’s, empowering a revolution among a people who chooses change over fear.
Affirming that her brilliance in the first film was not a one-time deal, Jennifer Lawrence perfectly captures the maturity of Katniss with minute shifts in her nuanced act. From a young vulnerable girl who fought for her own survival, she grows credibly into a tough woman who fights against her circumstances.
When the Capitol sends her back into the Arena to kill again, she hardens her emotions yet never once feels distant. One cannot help but be inspired by her grit and resolve. It is a difficult act she manages to accomplish, and a joy to watch some new cast additions with the chops to match her defining performance.
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee, whose quiet menace throws a veil over his shady alliance. New tributes thrown into his design include rambling genius Wiress (Amanda Plummer), young hotshot Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and his unlikely 80-year-old partner Mags (Lynn Cohen). But it is Jena Malone’s mad interpretation of Johanna Mason that exceeds the character penned on paper.
“Make Snow pay for it”, Johanna says to Katniss before the games, and it seems to sum it up best. This is about one brave woman’s quest against a regime. But she isn’t alone in her fight. When yet another battle comes to a tantalising finale, the rise of the Mockingjay has only just begun.
It has been two weeks since Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sudden passing. Boogie Nights, Magnolia and Capote are just three off the top of my head, of a myriad films that the talented actor has made a huge difference in. There have been so many beautiful tributes put out there to one of the greatest of our time, I feel no words can express these thoughts better. Greatly saddened by the fact that we have lost so many, celebrity or otherwise, to cruel addiction.
Rest in peace, PSH.
July 23, 1967 – February 2, 2014