Monday, 2 December 2013

'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Film Review

The highly anticipated sequel to 'The Hunger Games' finally hit cinemas last week and I was one of the eager ones to catch it over the weekend.

After winning the 74th Hunger Games and inadvertently defying The Capitol with their berry fiasco, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) embark on their victory tour across all twelve districts. Seeing Katniss as a beacon of hope, riots start to occur and the pair are threatened by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) to put on a good show to appease the districts, proving that their act of defiance in the arena was no more than a display for love for one another.

Despite all efforts, violence increases in the districts and President Snow has no choice but to eliminate the source of hope: Katniss.

Ever 25 years, there is a special games called the 'Quarter Quell', where a new rule/theme is drawn. As the reaping for the 75th Hunger Games draws near, the announcement that the reaping will be drawn from the existing pool of victors in each district shocks everyone.

Will Katniss be able to save herself and the ones she loves in a games like no other?

Though darker themes are cast over the movie as a whole, with Katniss being oppressed and uprisings occuring in the districts, the movie manages to bring lighthearted and funny moments throughout, most evidently from Haymitch and Effie, two of the best characters by far. The themes of hope, oppression and revolution start to become evident.

Visually, the movie offers even greater opulence than before. The Capitol is a feast for the eyes, especially the extravagant costumes, most notably on Effie, but the standout gown of the film would have to be Katniss' wedding dress designed by the talented Tex Saverio. The scene in which Katniss transforms into a Mockingjay was truly iconic and I feel referenced the ending of 'Black Swan'.

The stark contrast between District 12, The Capitol and the arena was brilliantly elevated, as in IMAX viewings, the screen widens as Katniss emerges up onto the arena. This was also delightfully presented and very much how I would've pictured it from the book. Unfortunately, the events within seem short-lived and the cleverness of this arena was not made as epic as it could have been. It also detracted from the fact that they had to kill each other- much of the tension, deception and paranoia was lost. Most of the deaths occurred from the natural infliction of the arena that there was very little actual confrontation between tributes bar one fight scene on the cornucopia.

Whilst I praise the movie for following the flow of the book, the movie felt truncated and split into two halves. It never quite feels complete as a movie and leaves you hanging with an unsatisfactory ending. The exact feeling I got at the last pages of the second book. I would've much preferred an even snappier cliffhanger, one where you question if Katniss was is dead or alive. Readers of the trilogy already know the ending, but for those who haven't, will have obtained greater intrigue, opposed to just being shoved a bunch of new facts they don't know how to handle.

Hopefully, the release of the third (and fourth) movie will wrap things up epicly and make it so that watching the series from beginning to end will have that 'complete' feeling to it. I anticipate a truly phenomenal finale both thematically and visually- with such strong themes, it could be a very powerful movie!

Jennifer Lawrence- Katniss Everdeen
Liam Hemsworth- Gale
Josh Hutcherson- Peeta
Elizabeth Banks- Effie
Woody Harrelson- Haymitch
Stanley Tucci- Caesar

Also stars Jena Malone, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin.

The all star cast expands further with the inclusion of the rebellious and funny Jena Malone as Johanna Mason, who is perhaps one of the standouts of the film. Sam Claflin offers all body and little substance. Elizabeth Banks wows again as Effie, who is my fav character and she lights up the screen in every scene. 

Jennifer Lawrence is more comfortable as Katniss Everdeen and delivers a stronger, more emotionally connected performance (after having won her Oscar for Silver Linings) but Hemsworth and Hutcherson plateaued.

Topping the US and UK Box office, 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' is one of the most hyped movies of the year and is a must see this holiday season (there's really no competition). Whilst fans of the book will find the movie staying true to the text both in terms of flow and content, those who have not will find the movie truncated and incomplete. 

With an ever increasing budget, the costumes, the styling and the arena were mouthwatering delightful, with great visual contrast and a thoughtful yet somewhat gimmicky screen size change in IMAX as Katniss emerges from the arena.

Boasting an all star cast and a script full of humour amongst darker and more grown up themes, the second movie is ultimately a setup for the final two films which will be the 'epic' we've been waiting for. Bring on 2014 and 2015. 

Every Revolution Begins with a Spark.

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