Sunday, November 24, 2013
Catching Fire is Still Fast and Fierce
Since winning the Games in the last film, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) are back in District 12, but they're not in love anymore (if they ever were). Katniss still has feelings for Gale (Liam Hemsworth), but when the annual Victory Tour date inches closer and closer, Katniss and Peeta must put on a kissy face to please the public and especially President Snow (Donald Sutherland), who feels particularly pissed off about how the last Games ended and how Katniss is starting to become a symbol of hope throughout the government-controlled districts. If this all sounds a little Twilight love-triangle-ish, don't fear: these scenes speed by and aren't cheesy like Bella and Edward's vampire tryst.
The winners of last year's games--trailed by a previous District 12 winner, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson, clearly relishing his booze-soaked role)--go from district to district, pretending that they are in love to please President Snow, but then something interesting starts happening: the crowds, becoming more and more unruly, begin to clash with the Capital-issued troops, and Katniss incites a growing rebellion. Snow has other plans: you see, this year's games is a Quarter Quell; which means that it is a once-in-every-25-years version of the games that encompasses something more special than normal. This year (to quash any uprising), new head-gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), working with President Snow, comes up with a crazy idea: the 75th annual Hunger Games will be between a pool of all of the previous victors, all but ensuring that Peeta and Katniss are thrown back into the deadly mix.
Director Frances Lawrence really surprised me with Catching Fire. His two other major films, Constantine and I Am Legend, showcased his ability to tell a story involving special effects, but neither of those films match the skill in which this Hunger Games incarnation was created. Though the audience realizes that this film is only the second in a trilogy (though Mockingjay will be split into two films, with a typical studio money grab), the two Lawrence's--Jennifer and Frances--showcase an innate ability to creature tension during the entire run time. Sure, you could take some of the plot points of Catching Fire and turn them into metaphors that pertain to a seemingly more-possible future America. But there's no need to: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is stellar blockbuster entertainment, a film that's made with a passion to the source material and enough excitement to make the 2.5 hour run time fly by as fast as one of Katniss's arrows. (A-)