Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
HA: Watch it, again and again and again, and watch it carefully.
AP: Government oppression never looked so good.
Following their traditionally fiery entrance to the 75th Hunger Games opening ceremony, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) step into the elevator to head back to their apartment. In jumps Johanna Mason, played by perfect Jena Malone, who spits sarcasm and oozes self-confidence as she strips her clothes in front of them much to the pleasure of Haymitch and Peeta, and the displeasure of Katniss who pulls faces behind her.
It’s probably one of the only funny scenes you will see in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the follow up to the first 2012 blockbuster, and I wish I could show you a picture. This time around, the scenes are darker, the rebellion is building and more is at stake than ever for our Girl on Fire. The new Director, Francis Lawrence, has done a fantastic job at strengthening the themes of loyalty, survival and government control.
In “Catching Fire” we pick up where we were left off, with Katniss back in District 12 following her survival of the 74th Hunger Games, however we find her suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and survivors guilt, though pushing through to hunt and provide for her family. Francis Lawrence has set a strangely beautiful scene of District 12, whilst frozen and caged; the opening scene of Katniss crouching at the edge of a lake in the forest is serene and thoughtful, and this reflects his approach to the entire movie- we aren’t watching a teenage romantic action movie, what we are watching is a dark, post-apocalyptic world on the edge of a rebellion, and we aren’t messing around.
“Catching Fire” flows on from the first part of the series and starts off with Katniss and Peeta being forced along on a Victory Tour where the Victors first start to realise what they are in for- for the rest of their lives. Before leaving she is threatened by President Snow, played devilishly by Donald Sutherland in a cool and threatening manner like a snake preparing to strike.
On the tour they discover they have become symbols for the people’s rebellion, however rather than being happy about this, Katniss fears the worst for not only her family, but also those who are starting to rebel. Romance isn’t a focus here and is touched on lightly with Katniss being reluctant towards both Gale and Peeta, and rightly so- as a refreshing heroine to all women, in this movie her character’s world revolves around her family, not romance. Back home we finally get the news- the 75th Hunger Games will place past winners against one another in what will be called the Quarter Quell.
As the games start, shot in Hawaii, we’re introduced to a circular arena where Katniss and the Victors- this time working together- have to face a barrage of manufactured killers- humungous monkeys, poisonous fog, raining blood and what seems the worst, birds that mimic their loved ones screaming in torture.
“Catching Fire” leaves the first movie in dust. Francis has shot the movie in amazing IMAX quality, brilliant special effects- wait until you see the monkeys- and heart-thumping action scenes. The exciting action scenes do not distract from the message however, and Mr Lawrence does well to pull back and reflect on this. My only criticism would be the sudden ending may leave some who haven’t read the books confused, but my response to them is to be patient and wait, because that is the way Suzanne Collins intended it, and to watch carefully- because subtle clues will insinuate that you are sure to find out that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes that first perceived.
Special mentions: Philip Seymour Hoffman as new Head Gamekeeper Plutarch Heavensbee, stringing the line between an evil capitol player and understated uncomfortableness. Stanely Tucci back as the amazing Caesar Flickerman- savour it, we aren’t sure if he will be back in the next two movies. Finally- Katniss’ training scene before the games, the camera follows Katniss as she shoots her bow and arrow at targets in mind-spinning speeds, and it is very cool.
HA: Sooo, what did you think?
AP: I really really enjoyed this movie. I thought it was even better than the first one- it was so much darker, grittier. I remember coming out just feeling completely emotionally exhausted- not many films can do that anymore.
HA: Definitely better, though I still thoroughly enjoyed the first movie, this went way beyond my expectations.
It was a lot grittier wasn’t it? Though Francis Lawrence managed to still shoot it in a beautiful way.
AP: I think Francis’ decision to shoot on 35mm kodak film was a great choice- really beautiful and naturalistic
HA: Can we talk about Jena Malone for a second? I thought she reeeally was fantastic.
AP: Yes please- she was fantastic, I wanted to see more of her
HA: I cant wait to see more of her in the next two films. Other characters are always careful to say anything against the capitol out of fear of being punished, so it was refreshing, both in the books and in the film to have someone openly angry and defiant.
AP: Jena Malone herself is just so perfect for the role…though, I think in this film, I felt less threatened by the other districts and more threatened by the actual arena…
HA: Yeah we saw more of their alliances and less of their opposition in the arena didn’t we? Also, how amazing were JLaw’s facial expressions?
AP: She is queen of facial expressions
HA: So I think we’re both in agreement! A++ to Catching Fire. I’m seeing it again this weekend.