Okay everybody you can stop salivating and wishing the time away. Hunger Games: Catching Fire has arrived with a bang. It topped the box office in Australia, ahead of its release in the USA with a staggering 65% increase from the first film’s result and the second biggest opening day for 2013 behind Iron Man 3. Fans of Suzanne Collin’s dystopian series will not be disappointed.
It follows the book closely, covering the politics and the lives of the love triangle of Katniss, Peeta and Gale. Directed by Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Constantine, Water for Elephants), reviewers and audiences are claiming it is better than the first film. The last book of the trilogy has been split into two films and will also be directed by Lawrence.
After winning the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) return to District 12 as victors. Part of their job is to participate in the propaganda surrounding the Hunger Games, embarking on tours of the other Districts (think an Olympics homecoming but with a dour crowd). Peeta and Katniss, who used the ruse of “being in love” to avoid being killed at the games, must continue to perpetrate the lie. On a visit to District 11, (young Rue’s district who was Katniss’ murdered friend in the first games) Katniss and Peter make the mistake of going off script and speaking from the heart. This incites the crowd to demonstrate their “hope” by whistling the notes Katniss used to contact Rue in the games, along with a three finger salute. As they travel through the districts the unrest continues, with the salute and the whistle its trademark.
With Katniss as its figurehead, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) views this demonstration of solidarity and hope as a threat to the supremacy of Pan Am. He devises a plan with the new gamesmaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to create a special games for the Quarter Quell (75 years of Hunger Games). The tributes will be chosen from the victors this time. Just when it seems Katniss will finally have a chance to be with Gale (Liam Hemsworth), she and other angry victors must return to an even more dangerous arena. Stanley Tucci is a knockout as commentator Caesar Flickerman. Elizabeth Banks is again fabulous as Effie Trinkett. All the team are still there: Wood Harrelson as Haymitch, Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, Toby Jones as Claudius Templesmith along with new tributes.
It’s a dark drama, and even though an enjoyable watch, the first half of the film covering the politics does drag until the games begin. When they do, they pack a wallop with real edge of your seat thrills (if you call watching young people kill innocent others thrilling). Just like the first, it ends with the promise of the next film. These films are box office gold. The producers will certainly not be going hungry. 3 and a half out of 5 from me.
Reviewed by Susan May An Adventure in Film