Review: THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 25 November 2013

Review: THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (2013)

A minor improvement over the original, with Jennifer Lawrence excels as usual, even though the sequel remains lacklustre. 


After the huge box-office success of last year's THE HUNGER GAMES (which felt overrated for me), the lucrative franchise returns with THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE. And this time, taking over original director Gary Ross is Francis Lawrence (CONSTANTINE, I AM LEGEND, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS).

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

After successfully becoming the first dual victors in the Hunger Games history, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), are now back into their normal life in District 12. Unfortunately, Katniss is still traumatized from the game and things even more uncomfortable for her when she and Peeta must embark on a tour of the other districts to give speeches. Meanwhile, the tyrannical President Snow (Donald Sutherland) sees Katniss as a threat since she inspires many people from the other districts to rebel across Panem. In order to eliminate her and Peeta, he and newly-appointed head game-maker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) places them in the upcoming 75th Annual Hunger Games -- known as the Quarter Quell -- where the competition will consist entirely of previous victors.

THE GOOD STUFF
 
Like the first HUNGER GAMES, the emotionally-fuelled setup is engaging enough to watch for. Even the sociopolitical undertones this time is richer in context. Acting are mostly fantastic, with Jennifer Lawrence's excellent performance as Katniss. Some of the returning actors are also significantly improved over the original (namely Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Donald Sutherland). Jean Malone, who is a newcomer to the series, is memorable as the rebellious District 7 contestant Johanna Mason.

But the most obvious improvement here is the camerawork, especially during the action sequence. No longer falling into the same shaky-cam trap that Gary Ross has made in the first movie, director Francis Lawrence knows well how to keep the shot steady. However...

THE BAD STUFF
  
... the action during the crucial game sequence remains a disappointment. The excitement is surprisingly lackluster, especially given the fact that Francis Lawrence is an experienced action director in his own right. It's quite a pity that he fails to make full use of the booby-trapped island setting to make the scene more urgent and above all, cinematic. Another glaring weakness here is the casting of Liam Hemsworth, who returns as Katniss' best friend, Gale. And lastly, at 146 minutes, the movie does feel unnecessarily overlong.
  
FINAL WORDS

Despite most of its flaws, THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE remains worthwhile. The final chapter, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY (which will be split into two parts for 2014 and 2015 release) is already in the works, with Francis Lawrence returns as the director.

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