After a solid if uneven entry into The Hunger Games universe and franchise in 2012, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the girl on fire, is plunged back into the cornucopia as President Snow’s disdain for her need to survive festers and incites a revolution.
It can be very easy to dismiss young adult novel adaptations as being simple money grabs manufactured at a certain quality to please the fans but remain efficient. Granted, Lionsgate will be pleased by the numbers in their books but they will also be smiling at their ability to provide tense action and emotion when it could have otherwise been ignored.
The symbol of Katniss Everdeen, a strong and independent female fighter, stands on its own merits. To produce, distribute and make money from a female led movie is not only admirable but also long overdue. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a sincere reminder that 51% of the population is female and you’d be silly to ignore that pocket of money.
Jennifer Lawrence is more than capable of leading her own franchise and she juggles the heft and weight of emotion, action and romance incredibly well. On occasion her signature Everdeen scream does irritate the eardrums but her stern stature pulls us back in. It’s never a bad thing to place sophistication at the center of your franchise. Lawrence is an Oscar winner after all.
Let us take a moment to indulge in our inner stereotypical teenage girl. Much like Twilight, The Hunger Games has somewhat devolved into a battle of Team Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Team Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Whilst hormonal girls will flit from one to the other more times than a schizophrenic, there is but one winner: Peeta Mellark.
Lets the take the actors. Hutcherson can genuinely act. His character and performance is believable. Hemsworth can’t act his way out of a paper bag. Now I understand his big brother is Thor and that he’s a better performer than I’ll ever be but show some emotion, show some development and don’t be afraid to stain that pretty face of yours by showing some goddamn damn change.
As for the characters – Peeta is the runaway winner again. Unselfish, truly compassionate and the underdog, Peeta is the one any sane person will root for. Gale may have been there longer but his domineer is one of a spoilt child which doesn’t really help his chances.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a significant improvement on the first, which was good in its own right. The ‘survival of the fittest’ aspect appeals to your Neanderthal tendencies and makes action sequences genuinely tense and engrossing. Levity and wit is never far from the screen and that helps to create a brooding yet fun film that performs extremely well in an otherwise unoriginal concept of dystopia and revolution.
Score – B+