In one word, spectacular.
Director Francis Lawrence didn’t hesitate to pull out all the stops in the film version of the second installment in the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire. Viewers are greeted with more new-age technology, more glamour and more of the Capitol than they have ever seen before as Katniss Everdeen (played by the one and only Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) gear up for the heart-wrenching Victory Tour all winners of the Hunger Games are forced to take.
Although winners of the Games are granted with gifts and more money than they could ever need, the victor’s horrors are unending; nightmares takes over their dreams, forcing Katniss to relive her killings over and over again. Lawrence plays Katniss extremely well, conveying the horror and pain that some of the first film was lacking through every miniscule detail in her face and the widening of her eyes.
The tyranny of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is unending as he forces Katniss and Peeta into the 75th Annual Hunger Games, called a Quarter Quell, in which tributes are picked from district victors. Shockingly, Katniss and Peeta are chosen – again.
Plus, Katniss is thrown into a love angle, which is the worst kind of problem to have ever. Both Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta can’t get enough of her, and yet she’s as “indifferent” as ever – except that she isn’t, smooching the boys at every dull moment. Then again, maybe she’s just trying to make friends. Because she’s just so good at that.
While the book may have been slightly dull, the film breathes life into the Games, truly showing viewers the psychological and physical ruthlessness of the Capitol that may not have been as apparent in the first film. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) is even MORE flamboyant (if that’s even possible), and even shows more compassion than has been ever seen from her in the Games thus far. Her costume design and makeup art (it really can’t be called anything else but art) leaves me wondering just how long it took Banks to pile all that on in the first place.
Vivid scenes from the arena as well as incredible sci-fi effects like poison fog and force fields make this movie better than ever before. Equipped with a stunning cliffhanger that makes you want to fast forward to the future and watch Mockingjay now, laughs that always take the viewer by surprise (try to catch Effie’s love for mahogany, girl can’t get enough of the stuff) and suspense that have you perched on the edge of your seat, Catching Fire is a must-see for all.
Runtime: 2 hours, 26 minutes
Opens: Thursday in select theaters and Friday nationwide.