Here we are with the second installment in the trilogy, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. This trilogy (well, three novels stretched out to four films) is the latest in the teen craze following on the heels of Harry Potter and Twilight and now The Hunger Games is taking its turn in the spotlight. Even with all of the success that the first movie saw, the studio was still not happy. New writers and a new director took the helm for this installment, but does that put the odds in the production’s favor and help take the series to the next level? In short, yes, in fact, with three fingers thrust proudly in the air make that a resounding yes!
Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are back in this next installment of The Hunger Games. Katniss and Peeta have just won The Hunger Games and they thought the danger was over. Little did they know that the danger was just beginning. Thrust into a world of politics and touring the districts, they start to realize that each district is on the verge of an uprising. With their own lives at stake, Katniss and Peeta try to continue their charade of being madly in love with each other. President Snow grows ever tired of Katniss and Peeta, as they begin to rebel against the strong handed government. Snow decides that this 75th Hunger Games will involve only those who have won previous games. Katniss and Peeta are suddenly thrust back into the world from which they just escaped.
Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games, Silver Linings Playbook) plays Katniss Everdeen and delivers a powerful performance. Jennifer is a rising star, and an Oscar-winner who just continues to elevate herself with each film. She did a wonderful job in Silver Linings Playbook and now delivers an incredible job with this second installment. Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games, The Kids Are All Right) plays Peeta Mellark and seems to have really grown into this role. During the first installment he came off as wimpy and whiney. In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Josh really comes into his own and you can see a true character shift. Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games, Expendables 2) plays Gale Hawthorne, Katniss’ “secret” love interest. While Liam doesn’t have a huge role in this film, his part in the film is important and he does a great job. Woody Harrelson (Cheers, Zombieland) plays Haymitch Abernathy, the drunkard and mentor. Woody always gives a great performance and his performance in this film is no exception.
There were a few supporting actors that really stood out in this film. Elizabeth Banks plays Effie Trinket. Elizabeth always brings such passion and brilliance to every role she plays. She does an especially wonderful job filling the role of this over-the-top character. Jena Malone (Into the Wild, Sucker Punch) plays Johanna Mason. While Jena has one of the smallest roles in the film, she is one of the more memorable characters. She does a great job with what little time she was given in the film.
Jeffrey Wright (Quantum of Solace, Source Code) plays BeeTee. Jeffrey is a brilliant actor that can play almost any part. He does an excellent job playing a tech nerd in this role. Last but not least, Philip Seymour Hoffman (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Moneyball) plays Plutarch Heavensbee. Plutarch is the new master of the games and is a somewhat sinister character. Pardon me while I gush over Philip, but this man is a brilliant actor. His sarcasm and ability to exude wit and charm are incredible. While this was another small role, he made this role stand out.
While most people won’t know the difference, there was a change at the helm of The Hunger Games franchise. Director Francis Lawrence steps in to replace Gary Ross, who directed the first film. One can only speculate as to why this decision was made. The first movie was a huge success and all of the hardcore fans seemed to eat it up. That being said, the same shift was made with the Twilight series after the first film as well. It seems that studios know what a successful recipe looks like and if you didn’t quite cut it, then you get replaced. Judging Francis solely of his produced body of work, the movie, it would seem the studio made a great choice. The movie is a masterpiece that super fans, fans and even casual movie goers will enjoy. Francis showcases his talents in a big way by stepping into an existing franchise and making a huge impact. Kudos to Francis Lawrence for directing a top notch film.
As we dive deeper down into the writing credits, we find a similar shift. Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt co-wrote this adapted screenplay. This is a change from the first film, which neither Simon nor Michael played a part in writing. It’s amazing to see the fluidity between the first movie and the second movie as the characters span both films. But, there was just something about this whole film that made it seem so much better than the first. Knowing the writers and the director were all different for the second film makes so much sense.
Those who saw the first movie will see an uptick in this movie and they may not be able to put their finger on it, but they will enjoy the second film more than the first film. Writing a screenplay is hard enough, but adapting a book to screenplay is actually harder than you would think. Sure the whole thing is written for you, but when you translate book to film you really have to know what works and what doesn’t work. If you try to copy the book verbatim the movie will fail for sure. You really have to have an eye for what to tell and how to tell it on the silver screen. My hats off to Simon and Michael for a job well done.
If you are a fan of the book trilogy, then you won’t be disappointed by the movie. It stays very true to the book and is quite enjoyable. This second installment felt a little more put together. It’s a little lengthy, at almost two and a half hours, but it never really seems to drag or sag in the middle. Things move at a brisk pace and the editing really helps pull it all together. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will undoubtedly be a box office hit.