“She’s not who they think she is,” says Panem’s President Snow (Donald Sutherland) of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). “She has become the people’s beacon of hope. She has to be eliminated.” “I agree, she should die,” says gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), “but in the right way.” “Catching Fire,” Chapter 2 in “The Hunger Games,” begins after Katniss and Peeta’s (Josh Hutcherson) unexpected victory in the 74th Hunger Games. On a Victory Tour, they distract district people from their miseries, thus helping to quell the growing revolution. That’s the setup for this dark sequel.
How will Katniss respond to Peeta’s show of affection? What are her feelings for Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth)? Does the revolution grow? “Catching Fire” has some – but not all – answers.
Jennifer Lawrence is strong and true as archer Katniss Everdeen, reluctant hero of the nascent revolution. “I don’t want people looking to me,” she says. “I can’t help them.” In the Capitol, where the games are manipulated, Katniss is a political tool. “Enjoy your time in the spotlight. You’ve earned it,” says ditzy Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Snow). “By killing people,” says Katniss. Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth return as serious-minded game-tribute Peeta Mellark and Katniss’ sometime boyfriend, stalwart Gale Hawthorne.
Others in the cast – reprising their roles from Chapter 1 – include Donald Sutherland as conniving President Snow, Elizabeth Banks, outrageous as Effie Trinket, and Woody Harrelson playing trainer Haywitch Abernathy, who drinks too much. Stanley Tucci is splendid as unctuous tv personality Caesar Flickerman and, new to the cast, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays ambitious gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee. (Aren’t these character names Dickensian?)
“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is the darker sequel to last year’s box-office hit. With a sci-fi frame, this post-apocalyptic, dystopian action adventure extends the story through one more gladiatorial Hunger Games to signs of the coming revolution. Fans of Suzanne Collins’ novels and the first film will want to see this one, although it takes a while to get going. Francis Lawrence directs from Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt’s script. Good performances and production values – art design, cinematography especially – as well as the film’s send-up of reality tv and villainous politicians – are among its pleasures. Less so, the idea that young people killing each other is entertaining.
Rated PG-13 for intense violent action, frightening images, disturbing themes, suggestive situations, and language, “Catching Fire” runs a long 146 minutes. Not for young children.
Sci-fi “Catching Fire,”
“Hunger Games” Part 2 –
Katniss, Peeta, Gale –
Stalwart, brave and true.