All Fired Up – A Review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Title: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Production Company: Lionsgate
Run Time: 146 minutes
Director: Francis Lawrence
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Summary: Arguably as good as or better than the first. Katniss and Peeta must battle other victors in a Hunger Games grudge match showdown engineered by the president of Panem.
May the odds be ever in your favor.
These are the words that the tributes in the districts live by in the annual Hunger Games, predicated in a post apocalyptic environment in the remains of North America where the country is now called Panem.
Each year, each of the twelve districts sends two tributes, one male and one female between the ages of 12 and 18, to compete in a fight-to-the-death spectacle for all the world to see. It’s Survivor on steroids.
The tributes all become instant celebrities. They are fawned over and treated like royalty, especially since, once the games are over, 23 of them are destined to die.
Except in the 74th Hunger Games. There, both tributes from District 12, Katniss Everdeen (the stunningly talented Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are both crowned victors after a rule change that allows them to survive as co-victors.
On Panem, though, there is a civil uprising predicated by Katniss’ flaunting of the rules and her defiance in the face of presidential and governmental authority.
Now, in an effort to quell the uprisings and to put the common folk back in their place, the 75th Hunger Games are destined to be different. Instead of reaping new tributes to fight each other, it is decided that the surviving victors will represent the districts in a climactic battle and only one will survive.
Needless to say, this will put the a damper on the romance between Katniss and Peeta which was the main reason for their survival since it gave the people of Panem the hope they needed to believe again.
And hope is the one attribute that the government of Panem needs to crush to maintain control and order among the populace.
There is an interesting message here, buried among the ruins of the lives lost in the games and among the common folk. It is every citizen’s obligation to stand up to an oppressive government, even if they do so reluctantly.
Katniss becomes a rallying point for the people. It’s not a role she wants, but she knows it’s the right thing to do at this point in her life.
Not everything plays out as either Katniss or the government expect, however, and the stage is nicely set during the film for the third installment which is due next year. Very much like the final books in the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises, the final book, Mockingjay, will be split into two parts with the final film slated for 2015.
The acting in the film is top-notch. Jennifer Lawrence will be a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. Every role she touches, she manages to make her own. The entire film balances on her performance, and she’s never been better.
As the leader of Panem, Donald Sutherland lends a quiet menace to his President Snow. He’s a man not to be trifled with and cunning and deceitful. His performance underlines the mantra of not trusting the government or its leaders. It sounds curiously poignant, given the overreach of our current governmental policies and the officials who create them.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is, himself, a marvelous addition to the ensemble as the new game master who has an agenda all his own. He’s suave, smarmy and just a touch menacing – the perfect counterbalance to the President.
And then there’s Ceasar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), the host of the entertainment programming that brings the Games to life for the world. Tucci is obviously having fun with this role, chewing up the scenery with the verve and gusto required of this over-the-top version of all too many game and reality show hosts we’ve come to know and secretly despise.
And Woody Harrelson brings just the right amount of caring and indifference to Haymitch Abernathy, a previous victor who has little or no desire to re-enter the arena. Without his help, though, Katniss’ odds of survival would dwindle dramatically.
This is the type of movie that serves not only to entertain, but manages to bring strong social commentary to the forefront as well. As entertainment, it’s superb. And if it manages to get you thinking a bit, so much the better.
I give The Hunger Games: Catching Fire a solid 5 out of 5 stars.