The Hunger Games Catching Fire

In Francis Lawrence’s Catching Fire, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, academy award winner for Silver Linings Playbook) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson, known for Bridge to Terabithia and Journey to the Center of the Earth) find themselves back inside the deadly, cunning world of The Hunger Games, but this time things are different. The first film, directed by Gary Ross, wasn’t quite accurate (at least according to devoted readers), because it didn’t betray the full extent of Katniss’s internal struggles, however in this second installment those struggles boil to the surface. In Catching Fire, we watch the remarkable slow burn of a young woman finally finding the rage at the center of a rebellion that has already begun all around her.


Catching Fire starts right where the last one left off. The Games are over and Katniss and Peeta are back in their hometown of District 12, with a brief moment of respite before the obligatory Victors Tour. The results of the Games have Katniss on edge, and Peeta as calm as ever (typical). Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), a victor himself, does his best to keep the two at arm’s length, while the still beguiling Elizabeth banks as Effie continues to be (almost totally) oblivious to what’s truly going on.


As victors, Katniss and Peeta set out on the road, traveling from district to district to pay homage to the ones lost in the Games. But what starts out as a press tour quickly turns into an act of rebellion. President Snow (Donald Sutherland), unhappy with the Districts’ rebellious acts, decides that for the Quarter Quell (every 25th year of The Hunger Games), he will only put victors back into the Games. The Games, created with such dangerous precision and beauty by Plutarch Heavensbee (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, an Academy Award winner in his own right).


In the practice arena, Katniss goes all badass with her bow and arrow, and the other victors all look in on her, impressed with what they see. It sets the stage for the memorable monkey scene during the actual Games. When she enters the arena, Finnick (the flirty Sam Claflin), a victor from District 4, plays nice and suave and saves Peeta, establishing him as an ally. Together, they work together to stay alive.


Another scene-stealer comes in the form of the always remarkable Jena Malone as Johanna Mason. Case in point: Haymitch, Katniss, and Peeta are stuck in an elevator with Johanna as she grunts about her stylist’s meager clothing options and strips all the way down in front of them. Happy to see Jena having a good time here! She also proves to be a useful ally, but the film manages to keep the audience guessing (similar to the book) as to ‘who the real enemy is.’


Smaller roles that are nonetheless played big in Catching Fire are Willow Shields as Prim and Liam Hemsworth as Gale, both embodied with surprisingly more character than in the first film. Willow ups her game and sheds that ‘shy annoying little sister’ energy by playing the role with more assertiveness, showing a knack for medicine and healing, while Liam’s character Gale leaps beyond the Hollywood-esque close-ups of the first installment to gain more power here (while still very cute and Hollywood-esque). Look out for these two when the franchise returns with Mockingjay Part I, because with better acting comes bigger roles, and anyone who’s read the books knows the fates of these two.


As in the end of the book, the conclusion here sets the stage for quite a final act to the trilogy (which for the films will be a quadrilogy). Katniss is reeling from the latest news of the rebellion and the Capital’s mercilessness, but Peeta has been there all along knowing exactly what she’s feeling because he’s feeling it too. However, Gale has known Katniss his whole life and wants to know everything about who she is and what she wants to be. So the question is, are you Team Gale or Team Peeta? (Lets see if fans are as rabid for these two as they were for Edward and Jacob).


Part two of a franchise usually gets lost in the trilogy. However, in the end, Catching Fire manages to outdo the first. JLaw finds an ease in Katniss’s body language when dealing with Peeta and Gale, becoming more comfortable (and oh yeah, way more seductive without meaning to). And as is the case with any exceptionally talented actress, Jennifer says it all here without saying a word—especially in the very last shot.