After their victory in the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jenifer Lawrence) and Peetah Mellark (Josh Hutherson) learned rebellions have begun across the twelve districts, inspired by their actions during the Games. In order to eliminate all victors as a threat, President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland) announces a special ruling for the 75th Hunger Games: All tributes will be selected from the existing pool of victors.
The Hunger Games was good, but I felt the franchise had room to improve. Thankfully, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire did just what I was hoping. It successfully improved on its predecessor, further building the world of Panem, as well as digging deeper into the characters.
One of the aspects of the first Hunger Games that didn’t sit well with me was Peeta. However, this time he is much better, and his character has developed, too. He still has a little bit of the love-sick teen vibe to him, but it doesn’t come across as strong, or as sad, this time. Peeta can actually fight, unlike much of the previous movie, where he spent most of the time playing follow the leader or was injured. It was nice to see what he was actually capable of.
I thoroughly enjoyed the supporting cast. Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth banks return with some sleight changes. Harrelson as Haymitch is more lighthearted than he was previously and Banks, as Effie, had some humor worked into her character, though neither got as much screen time as before. Gale, played by Liam Hemsworth, on the other hand, had much more screen time and Hemsworth really did fantastic. Some of the new blood that added a lot to the story was Jena Malone as Johanna Mason, a victor from District 7, Jeffrey Wright as Beetee, Amanda Plummer as Wiress, victors from District 3, and Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair, a victor from District 4. Each did a great job with their parts and added some interesting dynamics to the story.
Going behind the scenes of the games and watching the Game Maker control what happens in the arena was fun in The Hunger Games. This time, not much was seen from that point of view, which enabled the story to keep a focus on Katniss and the group of characters with her. We saw a lot of it already, so it wasn’t necessary to see it again. Also, had they kept cutting to the control room, the discovery Katniss made about the arena layout would have been given away.
The format of Catching Fire is very similar to its predecessor: start in District 12, go to the Capitol, try to get sponsors, then to fight in the games. And since the format is almost identical as before, it is plagued by some of the pacing issues that bothered me. So that hasn’t changed. However, it looks like the next installment should veer away from this format.
I feel every movie should be self-contained, regardless if it is part of a series or not. So when a movie ends in a cliffhanger, I get irritated. I’m sure the books ends the same way, and I know that it will lead directly into Mockingjay, but it’s still irksome that it leaves me hanging.
The Hunger Games: Catthing Fire is everything you want out of a sequel. Peeta is developed much more, and the supporting cast is more enjoyable and interesting than the previous film. Despite some pacing issues that still bog down the story, and a cliff hanger ending, Catching Fire is a great sequel and bodes well for what’s to come in The Hunger Games franchise.
For the rest of The Hunger Games series, check out my review for The Hunger Games.