Catching Fire Review (No Clever Title Necessary)

Kevin Pacelli ’14
EE Co Editor-in-Chief

After seeing Catching Fire in theaters, I can officially say that Panem is not a place I want to live. OK, well maybe I knew that before. But the second installment in the Hunger Games series is so beyond sinister that I know it with even more confidence. And I happened to love every second of the two and a half hour film.

The second part of a series rarely exceeds or even matches the quality of the first, but Catching Fire is undoubtedly an exception. Anything you loved about the first one has been improved upon, and anything that bothered you has been adequately adjusted.

The most notable improvements come from the cast, who collectively puts on an incredible performance. Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), Woody Harrelson (Haymich Abernathy), and Donald Sutherland (President Snow) reprise their roles with the same exceptional quality that they displayed in the first movie, and Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark) and Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne) both find themselves on the screen more often with better opportunity to prove their talents. And they both definitely capitalize.

New cast members also add to the high performance quality. Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman takes on the role of Plutarch Heavensbee and shines in doing so, while the feisty Johanna Mason of District 7 is accurately portrayed by Jena Malone. I would have liked to see more of a likeable character in Sam Claflin’s role as Finnick Odair (District 4) by the end of the film, but I can’t complain too much on his behalf.

The movie does not hesitate to jump into the thickening plot, picking up right where the first one left us. Katniss and Peeta have returned to District 12, only to be sent back out on a Victory Tour of the Districts before too long. Their task on this tour: prove to the nation of Panem that their suicide threats at the end of the 74th Hunger Games were an act of unrequited love, as opposed to rebellion. They soon begin to realize, though, that it might be too late for a country that is quickly falling into revolution. But is that really such a bad thing?

The darkness in the plot is unrivaled by its competitors in the young adult book and film genre. It seems that just when things are about to hit rock bottom, the all-powerful and purely evil President Snow throws in something new that leaves the entire audience (even those who know what to expect) in a state of shock and anxiety.

That’s not to say such darkness is a bad thing, though. Every gut-wrenching moment (there are a lot of them) brings the audience further into the story and closer to the characters who they grow to love so much. A bond and sense of empathy is created between the viewers and the cast that is hard to find in most teen fiction.

Overall, Catching Fire falls nothing short of brilliance. In a film that (like many sequels) could have gone horribly wrong, so much went right, leaving audiences speechless and hungry for more. With the attachment that they feel to Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, however, viewers may be more hungry for vengeance and justice than anything else by the end of this one.

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