The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Reviewed by Mitchell Burns

Director: Francis Lawrence        Starring: Jennifer Lawrence    Also Starring: Donald Sutherland
                                                                    Josh Hutcherson                              Lenny Kravitz
                                                                    Liam Hemsworth                              Phillip Seymour Hoffman
                                                                    Woody Harrelson                            Stanley Tucci
                                                                    Elizabeth Banks                              Jeffrey Wright

After seeing the first Hunger Games movie, I felt underwhelmed. There were parts of the movie I enjoyed, I think they got the casting spot on, but the movie overall felt to small and it didn’t live up to the hype of the book I so much enjoyed. My overall consensus of the first movie was “It was good, but the second one will be better”. 
I knew right after the first movie that the second book would make a better movie; I think the source material of Catching Fire lends itself to the screen better. It seems as if (For once) I was right. The second installment has an 89% Rotten Tomatoes score and has made over 160 million in its first weekend, breaking the November box office record previously held by Twilight: New Moon.
Catching Fire begins with our victors of the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) living in the victors village of District 12. They live in separate houses, but are supposed to be continuing their act of love for the cameras, and for President Snow (Donald Sutherland). The defiant act at the end of the 74th Hunger Games, where Katniss and Peeta refused to kill one another, and instead would kill themselves with poisonous berries has extremely angered President Snow. Although, the brave act has given hope too many of the districts and made them more rebellious. Katniss, and her symbol the mockingjay, has become a beacon of hope for some of the more privileged districts. 
Katniss and Peeta are forced to go on a victory tour where they will stop at each district and speak to its inhabitants about their fallen members and about winning the Hunger Games. Peeta and Katniss are instructed by President Snow to make people believe there love story, or else. When the tour causes more strife among the districts, and President Snow starts to lose control, he turns to his new head game maker, Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), for help. 
Catching Fire is a near perfect movie, and the best book adaptation I’ve seen since The Lord of The Rings trilogy.  Books create characters that will forever live in our minds, characters that we love immensely, or hate with a passion. There are numerous characters from books I’ve read over the years that I will always remember, and The Hunger Games books have many of those. In order to be successful, a book adaptation must have actors who fit the parts, and The Hunger Games and Catching Fire have that. 
Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss, and if she never plays another role again in her life, she will be remembered for this one. Lawrence embodies the character, playing her with the intensity and depth we love about the Katniss. Besides Lawrence, the other two actors who really stand out among this ensemble crowd are Stanley Tucci, playing the vibrant, purple haired, television host Caesar Flickman; and Elizabeth Banks, who plays the costumed and eccentric escort. 
Both Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, are just okay. Hemsworth isn’t given enough screen time, in this movie or the first, for us to really care about his character Gale, and the actor doesn’t add much to the role anyways. Hutcherson plays the central character Peeta, a character who I think anyone could have played, but Hutcherson does the job. Woody Harrelson is back for his role as Haymitch, and it’s just Woody Harrelson with a bad blonde wig, but I really couldn’t see anyone else in the role. 
The Newcomers, Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair, Jena Malone as  Johanna Mason and Jeffrey Wright as Beetee are all great in their essential supporting roles. 

The story itself is interesting, full of twists and turns that will shock anyone who hasn’t read the book, written by Suzanne Collins. The screenplay was adapted by two Oscar winning screenwriters, Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) and Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire). The movie has a slow start, deciding it needs recap the first movie and reintroduce us to these characters. They’ve made it so that you don’t need to watch the Hunger Games, but I bet the percentage of people going to see this movie who haven’t seen the first is around 1%. The screenwriters could have shaved 15-20 minutes off the first act and the movie would be a little tighter, I could see myself re-watching Catching fire one day and almost fast forwarding through the first half-hour. 
The first hour and fifteen minutes go by at a much slower pace than the last hour and 15 minutes. That’s right, Catching fire is two and a half hours long, but you wouldn’t know it. The last half of the movie is so tense and exciting it seems to whizz by at breakneck speed until its explosive finale. If you haven’t read the book, you’re in for a real treat, and I am very jealous. 
That’s the worst part of this movie, I knew what was coming. This movie has so many twists and turns and exciting drama, but I knew it was all going to happen before it did. Why are we so excited to see our favorite books turned into films when we know the story already? Especially a movie adaptation like this that follows so closely to the book you can see the images you conjured up while reading, transfer to the screen in front of you. 
When it comes down to it, Catching Fire will be the best Hunger Games movie, the next two movies will have a hard time living up to this exciting, tense and character driven spectacle of a movie.
My Grade: A-

Thanks for Reading,

Mitch Burns, The Hollywood Persona

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