Action-packed sequel hits a bullseye
By Carlos Razo
Based on Suzanne Collins’ post-apocalyptic, sci-fi thriller, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” raises the stakes that were already set high in the first “Hunger Games” film. A heart-pounding thriller, this film takes advantage of that fact that it is the middle entry of a trilogy; instead of introducing the world and characters, the emphasis is on action, suspense, and furthering the journey of Katniss Everdeen and her inevitable revolution.
For those of you who are painfully unaware, “The Hunger Games” takes place in the newly reformed North America called “Panem.” Consisting of 12 districts, the entire nation is ruled by a central government force called “The Capitol.” In order to keep Panem under the Capitol’s thumb, a yearly death match is held, where one boy and one girl from each district is randomly selected as a “tribute” to fight to the death.
After the events of the first film, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and her closest friend, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), struggle to cope with life after being the sole survivors of last years’ Hunger Games. President Snow (Donald Sutherland), the tyrannical dictator of Panem, believes that Katniss must be killed, for he fears that her presence might lead the other districts into a revolt. Instead of having her executed, President Snow orders that Katniss, Peeta, and several other survivors get sent back into the games. If Katniss can be killed in the battle arena, the people’s hope can be killed too.
Academy award-winner Jennifer Lawrence ignites the role of Katniss; they do not call her the girl on fire for nothing. Possibly the most iconic heroine of this generation, Lawrence sells every scene and engages every action with masterful technique. Hutcherson, while strong in his role, does not have as much material to work with, and unfortunately, is forced to spit out some of the cornier lines. Sutherland portrays President Snow with terrifying force; his very presence sends chills down your spine, as he is a worthy adversary for the bow-wielding protagonist.
Woody Harrelson returns as the alcoholic Haymitch Abernathy and supplies some welcomed comedic relief. Other supporting cast members include Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci in a hilarious role as a talk show host, and Philip Seymour Hoffman in a welcome addition to the stellar cast.
The set-design of the film is fantastic. While the districts are poor, run-down villages, the capitol is designed as a sprawling metropolis with its own fashion and architecture. The battle arena (an island built to move like a massive clock) makes for an exciting and unpredictable final act, as the dangers and traps this time around are more hazardous than before. Each tribute must utilize their skill to the fullest as they are hunted down one by one, and the film keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time. Though some may grow anxious by the first act’s leisurely pace, once the games begin, the film never slows back down.
Exciting, heart-pounding, and boasting dozens of excellent performances, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is an improved sequel and a worthy adaptation. With the final installment, “Mockingjay,” being released in two parts next year, “The Hunger Games” has been leaving audiences hungry for more. Hopefully these final installments can live up to the hype, and considering the track record, the odds are definitely in their favor.