The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence, the girl on fire, is hotter than ever in “Catching Fire,” the latest installment in the rare “Hunger Games” franchise. I say “rare” because this isn’t like “Twilight” or even “Harry Potter.” It’s not the typical YA Hollywood shlock. It’s dark, bold, gutsy, and unpredictable. It’s cinema. And, I’ll say it, it’s even better than the original.
After winning the 74th annual Hunger Games and causing a mini-uprising across Panem, Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark try to enjoy their cross-district victory tour. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) knows the danger that Katniss poses, as she gives hope to hopeless citizens, but he knows he can’t kill her himself. So he devises a plan to let the Hunger Games have their shot one more time, this time pitting former Hunger Game winners against one another. Will Katniss be able to survive another blood-battle, this time with other all-stars? See for yourself.
Jennifer Lawrence shows us why she won that Oscar earlier this year, and even Josh Hutcherson shows up this time. I wasn’t convinced the first time around, but I’m starting to warm up to his acting. Their supporting actors and actresses work incredibly well together, too. No one seems stiff or uncomfortable in their role. It’s ensemble magic.
Even at a lengthy 2 hours and 26 minutes, “Catching Fire” had me absorbed the entire time. Part of me wishes it would have just tacked “Mockingjay” on the end and let me keep watching another three hours. It was captivating. Its tight script (from the Oscar-winning writers of “Toy Story 3” and “Slumdog Millionaire”) doesn’t waste a single word.
“Catching Fire” proves again that what you can do with a PG-13 rating really can get to people. It’s so brimming with emotion and suspense, you would have no idea that it’s marketed to young adults. It’s far more exciting than so many R-rated movies that come out every Friday. But it can also be quirky, with Woody Harrelson’s (as another former Hunger Games victor) drunken dialogue and Lawrence’s usual deadpan humor.
“Catching Fire” isn’t the best movie I’ve seen this year, but it may have been the most exciting to watch. I’m not even a “Hunger Games” buff. I’ve never read the books and I barely remembered seeing the first movie, one time, amongst a big chatty group of people. But “Catching Fire” still hooked me. It’s an epic adventure. I would even put it on the shortlist for the year’s best blockbuster.