Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Release date: November 22, 2013
Running time: 146 minutes
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland
Who to see it with: Fans of the original or fans of good book adaptations


Movie adaptations of popular books are generally tough to do; translating the pages to the big screen will always be an imperfect exercise. There are plenty of examples of movies that get it right (LOTR and Harry Potter), and plenty more where it has not been successful. I felt that the first Hunger Games movie was the former; it beautifully adapted the rich visuals of  the book to the big screen and brought enough of the content to make it enjoyable given the constraints of the film format. Sure, I would have liked a little more back story between Katniss and Gale, but there's only so much you can do in two hours. Luckily, Catching Fire follows in the tradition of the first film with a wonderful adaptation of Suzanne Collins's second novel. The movies starts out, surprisingly, more grim than the first one, doing a great job of setting the stage and giving the viewers a sense of foreboding over the instability of Panem. This sense lingers throughout the film, and it is remarkably well done even when the plot moves to the glitz and style of the Capitol. 

As with the first movie, one of the strongest features of Catching Fire are the overall look and feel of the movie. The movie has to showcase a variety of very different locales. From the bleak District 12 (and the other visited districts) to the fabulous Capitol, to the Games themselves, each location is recreated wonderfully and really gives the viewer a sense that you're in a different world. As before, the Capitol is particularly well done and especially the costumes and hair styles of the fashion-conscious residents; everyone looks unique but at the same time similarly ridiculous. The acting is another highlight of the film. Jennifer Lawrence stands out as being particularly brilliant, with an ability to easily showcase a range of emotions for any scenario. The rest of the cast are equally enjoyable to watch; every character is well cast with an actor / actress who fully embodies them. This is particularly impressive given the variety of characters in the second novel. Donald Sutherland is surprisingly good as President Snow; the aforementioned sense of dread is palpable whenever he is on screen. The story follows the book and, like the book, has an ending that leaves much to be desired, but Catching Fire is a worthy sequel to the original movie. Few movies so fully and vibrantly adapt their source material to the big screen, and fewer still have to deal with the variety of characters and locations that the Hunger Games novels do. Catching Fire does an exceptional job and should not be missed. 

Watch it.

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