After the brutal and intense fight for survival in the first Hunger Games movie, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) have returned home from the games in the adaption of the Suzanne Collins hit novel Catching Fire; the second instalment of the trilogy. But they can’t get too comfortable as they are about to embark on a Victory Tour of the 12 districts following their “well-earned” success. After a visit from a malign President Snow (in a brilliant performance from Donald Sutherland), Katniss learns that her rule-bending actions in the arena which led to both her and Peeta’s survival, has been seen as an act of defiance by some of the districts, sparking a rebellion among the nation. Living in fear and hope of protecting her family, she is now forced to be the face of the Capitol to dismantle the image of hope she represents among the nation.
The Hunger Games is an annual event which sees a male and a female from each district, often children and teenagers, compete in a televised battle controlled by the Capitol as punishment for a past rebellion. Now the 75th games are close approaching and two victors from each district will re-enter the arena for the special anniversary year. Luck is not on Katniss’ side once again as she is the only female victor from district 12. A loved up Peeta is quick to volunteer as tribute after their mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) is picked to join her. And once again, the games begin.
Those of you who like to read the book before seeing the film will know that movie adaptations are often a disappointment, with some rare exceptions including the first instalment of the Hunger Games. With the leading duo entering the arena once again, the film was also at risk of being repetitive and monotonous. But this explosive sequel promises to have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish with your emotions running high and low, as Catching Fire captures the essence of the novel perfectly. From the eccentric and outrageous fashion of the Capitol and its inhabitants, to the horrifying dangers inside the tropical arena which is home to murderous baboons and poisonous fog, the film is also visually stunning. Stepping up from its predecessor in almost every way, the movie delivers a satisfying balance of emotion and action keeping you completely gripped.
Whilst set in the futurist kingdom of Panem, Catching Fire explores the very real themes of hierarchy, materialism, oppression and survival with maturity and depth. Watching the struggles of an abused nation under the power of the Capitol offers up some heartbreaking and shocking scenes, including Katniss’ forbidden love interest Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) getting publicly whipped in the town square. The supporting cast gives exceptional performances; Elizabeth Banks’ portrayal of Capitol-bred Effie Trinkett in particular was funny and stern, yet touching.
After winning the Oscar for Best Actress in the Silver Linings Playbook earlier this year, Lawrence’s own rise to prominence has climbed just as fast as Katniss’. And she admittedly stole the show with her powerful and believable performance as the teenage champion and celebrity role model who just can’t catch a break. Forced to put her love for her childhood friend Gale aside and maintain the illusion of romance with Peeta to keep Snow happy, Katniss’ devotion to protecting her family and community transcends the inevitable teenage love triangle as she leaves the boys to mope, and focuses on fighting back. Not only are stereotypical gender roles reversed as Katniss remains the perfectly empowered heroin, she reminds us that The Hunger Games is not a love story; but ultimately a brutal and thought-provoking tale about war.
For those of you who haven’t read the book you are in for an unexpected twist at the end of the movie, with a brilliant yet frustrating cliffhanger. Mockingjay, the third and final novel in the series has inevitably been split into two movies, but can they maintain the momentum as the story comes to an end?
The Hunger Games is out in all cinemas from November 21 2013. See the trailer below: