“THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE” Review

November 25, 2013
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“Remember, girl on fire, I’m still betting on you.”

Those words are perhaps the best sentiment to express how audiences will be feeling as they watch the latest installment in the Hunger Games series, Catching Fire.  The film, which is the second in a set of four (the film adaptation of the trilogy’s final book, Mockingjay, will be released in two parts), is a dazzling visual experience, a delightful action adventure that will send emotions soaring and minds reeling. The film begins where the first one left off: the feisty Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is struggling to recover after becoming the victor of the 74th annual Hunger Games, in which contestants (known as tributes) are thrust into an arena to fight to the death. Emerging from the Games alongside her projected lover Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss must continue her pretend infatuation with him to convince the series’ villain, President Snow, that she is not – as he believes – the spark that Panem citizens are looking for to ignite a rebellion.

Forced to endure heartbreaking glimpses into the distress of the districts in addition to witnessing just how much anger is beginning to stir, Katniss must also deal with her conflicted heart: she can choose to remain in her old life with her ever-rebellious old friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth), or she can choose to emerge into a new life with the emblematic Peeta.  The internal struggle she undergoes causes for some steamy on-screen scenes, and the chemistry felt between Lawrence and both Hutcherson and Hemsworth is undeniable.

The real trouble begins when President Snow announces that as it is the 75th anniversary of the Hunger Games and therefore what is considered a Quarter Quell, there will now be a new twist: the Games will take contestants from the existing tributes from each district, thus guaranteeing that Katniss will be returning to the dreaded arena.  When Peeta volunteers to take the male tribute’s spot for District 12, audiences find themselves watching a deja-vu of sorts unravel on the screen.  The intrigue comes in the form of the other tributes: a collection of eccentric and dynamic characters who are both more lovable and more terrifying than the tributes of the first film.  There’s Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), a charmingly flirtatious heart-throb with a liking for sugar cubes.  There’s Johanna Mason (Jena Malone), fiercely angry with a wicked smile.  And then there’s Mags, the quiet, heartwarming grandmother-type that you can’t help but love.  Combined, the new competition proves to be one of Katniss’ biggest challenges yet.

With a new director at the helm, Francis Lawrence, Catching Fire takes on unbelievable new heights, achieving dynamic wow factors with dazzling cinematography (most of the film was shot on location in Oahu, Hawaii) and frightening special effects (sinister creeping poison or a band of rabid monkeys, anyone?).  Using careful precision and a keen sense for bringing out the actors’ best, Lawrence manages to keep the film stunningly true to the book, ensuring that even the most picky of fans will be satisfied.

Though it runs at nearly two and a half hours, the film rarely drags, bringing audiences on a rollercoaster of action and adventure whilst a number of cathartic elements will guarantee a few tears.  As the story gets deeper and darker, so does the film, ensuring that fans will only become more enthralled by the complicated tangles of the series as it paves the way for the spectacular two-part finale.

The US premiere of the film took place at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Monday night, and WeKnowTheDJ was there to witness it.  With all of the cast and crew in attendance, plus some past favorites (Clove or Foxface, anyone?) and the creator of the series herself, Suzanne Collins, it was a star-studded night that left us dazzled.  Watching the film in the presence of the stars only brought to light how much effort and hard work truly went into its creation – and how much it’s paying off simply by how good Catching Fire is.

Catching Fire opened in theaters nationwide on November 22nd.  Have you seen it yet?

 

-Shelley DeHekker

@shelleydehekker

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