The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 2 hrs. 26 min.

Release Date: November 22nd, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Francis Lawrence Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Jena Malone

 


 

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hile the primary stars remain youthful, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” has matured substantially over its predecessor. The themes are approached with an intensity and seriousness that brings greater gravity to the events, even while the material lessens in disturbing violence towards adolescents. Though highly repetitive, the notion of seasoned killers pitted against each other in the newest annual Hunger Games tournament is far more palatable than the grim brutality against minors found in the first film. Save for one elderly contestant, the battlers are predominantly ruthless thugs, which creates a heightened sense of adventure over despondency and increases empathy for the two main protagonists. Their allies have also upgraded to more entertaining and able-bodied combatants, though an overbearing focus on lavish costuming and the insufferable Effie (Elizabeth Banks) continue to hamper the momentum. It’s clearly just the beginning to a larger story, but “Catching Fire” steadily builds excitement with the harrowing plights of its heroes and introduces several new characters that admirably fill out the cast to complement the leads, and also distract from the sappier moments.

After their groundbreaking victory at the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) prepare for a celebratory tour across the twelve districts of Panem. But Katniss has little time for repose before President Snow (Donald Sutherland) unexpectedly arrives and informs the young warrior that her triumph in the arena has spurred rebellion against the Capitol. Forced to continue her love affair charade with Peeta, Katniss attempts a brave face during her public speeches as further insurgencies bring harsher penalties. When the 75th Quarter Quell Hunger Games are announced, pitting the champions of previous years against one another, Katniss and Peeta are thrust back into a desperate competition for survival where they must fight to the death against the most skilled warriors in all of Panem.

It’s almost as if this second chapter to the immensely popular “Hunger Games” franchise is trying to simulate the spectacle of “Ben-Hur,” what with the chariots, arena-based gladiatorial games, and the Roman/Grecian designations (including Octavia, Flavius, Caesar, and Plutarch). But the distracting preoccupation with ludicrous fashion (Effie Trinket changes her wardrobe in every new scene, donning increasingly more obnoxious ensembles) and the repetitiousness of faceless soldiers oppressing starving laborers in cadaverous landscapes (like “1984,” “Equilibrium,” and “V for Vendetta”) couldn’t distance it further. Struggling extensively to find a unique visual identity, the production has failingly focused on the dottier elements, using roles like Stanley Tucci’s overacting, exaggeratedly flamboyant announcer Flickerman or Elizabeth Banks’ bizarrely elongated eyelashes and unattractive makeup to force grating resonance. Their distinct weirdness embodies the strained, futile undertaking by the film’s designers to craft a compelling vision of futuristic class separations.

There’s an amusing love triangle (certainly more involving than what was witnessed in the recent “Twilight” saga), commentary on waning humanism through tyrannical rule, and an unveiling of the supremely negative influences of politically slanted media, primarily as it defines celebrity – but it’s all buried deep beneath basic adventures of wilderness survival that are curiously manipulated back into the script for a twist and return to the first film’s plot. Hints of the psychological consequences of murder, even in the scope of mandatory warfare, self-sacrifice, and impending rebellion rise to the surface (lending to an abrupt, cliffhanger conclusion). But hard at work too are contrived solutions to deadly scenarios, such as water that magically cures lesions from poisonous gas and parachuted aid packets for the most pressing of predicaments.

– The Massie Twins

  • 7/10