Movie review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

With the teen fiction book market being a new market for Hollywood to pillage for profit, it was always going to be a case of quantity over quality. 2012's The Hunger Games however, was a pleasant surprise by being rather good, offering far edgier fare than expected.

Hopes were relatively high then for its sequel. It doesn't take long into Catching Fire before there's a sudden realisation that hope can die all too quickly, particularly where this film is concerned.

Having survived and won the 74th Hunger Games, life should be swell for Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). It isn't. The people of Panem are still suffering, and Katniss and Peeta find themselves brought back into the spotlight again a year later, to help promote the 75thgames. They're still having to pretend to be a couple, which certainly makes things awkward between Katniss and her real boyfriend. Well, it would, wouldn't it?

The relationship between Katniss and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) hasn't become any less frosty either. Snow still dislikes Katniss and sees her as figure of hope for the suffering people of Panem, which of course, won't do at all.

With a new gamesmaker on the block, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Snow wants to make a real statement with the next games. Between the pair they cook up a real doozie; as it's the Third Quarter Quell, they will present a very special games, where previous winners will get the great 'honour' to be picked to participate once again. And as the only ever female winner from District 12, the participation of Katniss in proceedings is, sadly for her, a foregone conclusion.

Before you can say "predictable plot point" Katniss and Peeta once again find themselves fighting for their lives.

There a number of films that take a while to get into the swing of their story, but Catching Fire takes the proverbial biscuit. An hour in and very little happens. New director Francis Lawrence takes his sweet time in developing the story on screen. There's a lot of serious pouting against an unsettled political backdrop which ultimately results in very little.

And eventually the game itself begins. It's a challenge for any director to put a new twist on the concept; after all, the most exciting element of the first film was the game itself, with its hunt or be hunted premise. Laurence attempt to mix things up is by squeezing an episode of Lost into the centre of the film; the biggest threat for the combatants isn't each other, but the arena they're playing in. Just like Lost, the arena is island-like, with the elements and its inhabitants proving to be the most prominent danger. Sadly, it just doesn't work, with very little shape and too much nonsense to take it seriously.

And then...the film ends. Literally as it just starts to warm up, after two and three quarter hours in, it stops in its tracks, in a tragically timed cliff-hanger. And to add insult to injury, as if you haven't suffered enough, Chris Martin starts crooning over the end credits.

It transpires that what Lawrence has actually made is akin to a teaser trailer of nearly three hours in length for the final instalment to come in the trilogy. It's a woeful example of time management, offering nothing vaguely entertaining or original during its entire duration.

It just feels worse after all the good work that was done in the first film. Catching Fire, ironically enough, doesn't come close to doing that, offering not even a single spark of entertainment.

Another troubling thought is that not only the third instalment, Mockingjay – surprise, surprise – split into two parts, but Lawrence is also down to direct both. And Katniss and Peeta thought they had it bad.

As far as these games are concerned, there's a good chance, on this evidence, that you could lose your appetite entirely for the series. Yes, it's that bad.

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Comments 2 comments

DarbyCallahan 3 years ago

Nah.

As a Hunger Games fan, I totally disagree with your opinion. Fortunately for us both, we live in a world where we can 'agree' to 'disagree'!

I attended the premiere showing with a group of other film critics, and as a whole, the audience's enjoyment of the film was abundantly apparent. The crowd cheered during certain key moments of the emotionally-charged film; they were totally engaged in the movie from beginning to end. The movie spent a lot of time 'pre-Hunger game', to be sure, but this part of the saga is supposed to inform the audience that the rebellion against the government is coming. It is also designed to show how Katniss comes to a personal realization that she is not merely a victim of the government's 'tribute' system: instead, her family has given her the freedom to pursue her role in the early stages of the rebellion, as they have come to an understanding that she is a symbol of hope to the masses.

Ending part 2 of a trilogy in a cliffhanger is a common Hollywood trope that is used to entice the audience to return for round 3, so the ending did not bother me: I thought it was perfect for what the director was trying to achieve. The look in Katniss' eyes at the very end spoke volumes, and it also spoke well to the actress' ability to capture an incredible range of emotions in less than 20 seconds. I loved it, will watch it again, and cannot wait until November 2014!


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Boomuk 2 years ago from London, UK Author

Thanks for your comment. It just goes to show how films can divide opinion! I think the reason i found the film so disappointing is that i really enjoyed the first one. Everything about this one was wrong. The pacing was all over the place, all the originality had been drained from it, making this one so boringly generic. Obviously the cliffhanger is a familiar trait for Hollywood films, but the best ones are usually preceded with something worth watching. This instalment was nothing more than an overly long trailer for the final two(!) instalments. Glad you enjoyed it though!

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