The 2nd entry in the Hunger Games franchise is directed by Francis Lawrence, the cast from the Hunger Games returns with new additions of Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Lynn Cohen, Amanda Plummer, Alan Ritchson, Meta Goldling.
The stakes are doubly high this time around with the victors of Hunger Games in previous years being brought back to the arena for a bigger, Hunger games in the Quarter Quell, Katniss and Peeta are brought in as recent victors from District 12, much to their dismay and also because the capitol is now targetting Katniss as districts have started to rebel against the capitol. Right off the bat, Catching Fire is better than The Hunger Games, with a more steady direction and with the story expanding to the next level in an interesting way, it’s shot very well and the shaky cam from before is done away with, showing us better shots of action and set pieces, while the introduction of former victors is an interesting direction for the story to take. We see more of the Capitol and the concept of the Hunger games itself and learn about previous victors an how they won, representing just how long the Hunger Games have been running for (75 years) and how the victors at least, mostly have lived normal lives since winning, though things in the district are still awful.
The returning cast is great and the performances are good all around, with some heated, more intense performances from Lawrence, Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson, Chris Hemsworths as Gale is still around but not as important to the plot this time around, while Katniss starts to openly rebel against the capitol along with the district, sowing seeds of things to come and it’s great to watch. Tension rises between Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch as the three don’t want to work together or go back into the Games understandably but have to, while Elizabeth Banks as Effy provides some comic relief and a light tone to the story. The inclusion of the Quarter Quell and the new, advanced arena is a nice touch, it brings a bigger element to the concept of the Hunger Games and provides the tributes with more to face in the Games than just each other with each section of the arena having a theme that is either potentially deadly, or something to force the tributes together physically, making them fight. Highlighting the depravity of the Capitol in the idea of the games themselves and in having the extra dangerous Quarter Quell, making former victors fight each other despite their experience or age.
The new arena works well and gives the games that extra element to make things interesting, with the previous winners of the games were an eclectic bunch of people, from the narcissistic, cocky Finnick to the genius but nerdy Betee, this new group of tributes were easily more interesting than The Hunger Games group of kids, more lethal and just a lot better to watch. And it was interesting to see Katniss come up short at times, coming up against people that were physically stronger or faster than her, add to that the new arena which presented a significant challenge for the good guys and it was great for the story. Katniss and Peetas’ relationship grows further and deepens and Lawrence and Hutcherson do sell it more convincingly this time around, while the circumstances of the new arena mean they can’t be staring into each others’ eyes for too long without having to take action, which helped the pacing of the story and kept things moving.
Catching Fire is a good film, well made and an interesting exploration into the world of The Hunger Games, showing more of the world and presenting Katniss and company with a significant, challenging threat and ending on a tense note, it’s a step up and solid improvement from the first film as well.
. Quarter Quell/new arena is a nice touch, makes for an interesting spin on the games/plot
. Great use of tension and suspense throughout the film
. Plot goes to interesting, somewhat unexpected places