Science-Fiction motion pictures of the dystopian future flavor have always been one of my favorite genres of cinema. After falling in love with such classics as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), The Matrix (1999), Metropolis (1927), and V for Vendetta (2005), all the films that I have watched since had to create a lot of the same magic that made these films endure for such a long time. After watching, and enjoying, the first film of The Hunger Games trilogy last year, the sequel had the suitable platform to build on what the original established and take the story further. I am glad to say that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire not only does that but is a better film than the original on the whole. The combination of a talented cast, a visually-driven director, and a gifted crew has helped create what I see as one of 2013’s best films.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is directed by Francis Lawrence and is the second adaptation of the popular book series by author Suzanne Collins. The movie stars an ecclectic cast including Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and Lenny Kravitz. The film follows the events established in The Hunger Games (2012) as Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, the victors of the 74th Hunger Games, become the sole focus of the mischievous Capitol, sparking a rebellion throughout the Districts of Panem. The motion picture is an action-adventure science-fiction feature film that runs for two hours and twenty-six minutes.
A main factor in the success of The Hunger Games films so far has been the outstanding acting by its two leading young stars, namely Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson. Beginning with Lawrence, she is one of Hollywood’s youngest actresses today but that has not stopped her from already delivering fantastic performances in films that have become a success both critically and commercially, with The Hunger Games (2012), Silver Linings Playbook (2012), for which she won the Best Actress Oscar, and X-Men: First Class (2011) being her most notable recent work. She continues that wonderful streak with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, reassuming the role of the young hero Katniss Everdeen but with a more mature, realistic, and compelling performance than that in the first film. It is without a doubt that Lawrence is the main reason why these films have become such a huge success. She is simply outstanding as she is able to give off warmth and emotion but with a sense of strength and confidence that makes her a formidable and impressive presence on the screen. Jennifer Lawrence definitely deserves all the good vibes coming her way and I eagerly await how her blossoming acting career will take her next.
There is also Josh Hutcherson who plays the role of Peeta Mellark, the other victor of the 74th Hunger Games, who creates a fabricated love story with Katniss to gain the public’s popularity. He too delivers a very good performance as the shy, quiet, and introverted Peeta. However, the fast-moving events around him force a change to his character that Hutcherson portrays remarkably well. He is an actor who I have become familiar with due to The Hunger Games films but one who, like Lawrence, is able to command the scenes he is in with a distinctive and unique demeanor that audiences will enjoy. His scenes with Jennifer are a particular highlight of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and are crucial to the success of the film, elevating it from a mere average film to a nearly-great one. His is a career that interests me as well and I hope he continues to pick the right roles as he has done here.
Special mentions should be given to the supporting roles in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire that have enriched the world of Panem and given it a varied and colorful cast of characters. These include Liam Hemsworth who plays the love interest of Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen, Gale Hawthorne; Donald Sutherland as the evil and conniving president of the Districts of Panem, President Snow; Philip Seymour Hoffman as the quiet and smart The Hunger Games director Plutarch Heavensbee; Lenny Kravitz, the fashion designer who concocts breathtaking clothes for Katniss and Peeta; Woody Harrelson as the hilarious drunk, and former The Hunger Games winner, Haymitch Abernathy; Stanley Tucci as the over-the-top talk show hot Caesar Flickerman; Jeffrey Wright as the intelligent, methodical, and focused The Hunger Games contestant Beetee; and, of course, Elizabeth Banks as the eccentric, joyous, and boisterous Effie Trinket. All of these wonderful actors and actresses have been able to provide The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with their own unique styles that make the film such an enjoyable and entertaining ride.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire also is boasted by a gifted director in Francis Lawrence who knows how to film a dystopian science-fiction universe with all the grit and realism needed to bring it to life. He highlights the drastic differences of each district of Panem in a manner that is vivid and quite beautiful. Lawrence also does an excellent job in pacing this two hour film as the audience is rarely given the chance to feel bored or uninterested. That is a magnificent feat that he should be commended for as it is often the case that viewers find it hard to tolerate long films. Director Francis Lawrence also gives his well-picked cast the right amount of space and time to flesh-out their characters and deliver truly excellent performances.
There is also the music in the film that is composed by one of the greats, James Newton Howard. He is a master composer whose tunes give the film an added sense of despair, danger, and adventure that fit perfectly with the scenes. His contribution to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is certainly a massive gain for this franchise.
I would also like to note how well the cinematography is in the film thanks to Jo Willems. Along with director Francis Lawrence’s guidance, Willems showcases the distraught and impoverished districts of Panem in a much more authentic manner than the first film. It might be because of the second film’s higher budget but that does not diminish the good work done by Willems in this film.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is easily one of 2013’s best action-adventure films. The fact that is also a science-fiction feature makes it that much more engrossing and enjoyable. As mentioned earlier, I am a big fan of the dystopian-society sub-genre of science-fiction films and find this second Hunger Games film a welcome addition to the genre. It is a movie that features a strong and confident heroine, which is a rarity in and of itself for Sci-Fi films, portrayed by one of Hollywood’s best young talents and accompanied by a whole host of wonderful actors and actresses who bring this unique world to life. The Hunger Games: Catching is a skillfully directed motion picture that will satisfy almost every type of film-goer and comes highly-recommended.
MATM Rating: ***1/2 out of ****
- Jennifer Lawrence (as Katniss Everdeen)
- Josh Hutcherson (as Peeta Mellark)
2 hours and 26 minutes
Action / Adventure / Science-Fiction