The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) Directed by Francis Lawrence. With Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland.
Despite a change of director, this second film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ dystopian Hunger Games novels, plays surprisingly similar beats to its predecessor. I say this from the perspective of someone who hasn’t read the books, although halfway in, it’s hard to escape the feeling that we’ve been down this road before.
Thanks to the huge financial success of the first film, the cast return, headed up by Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. It’s a welcome breath of fresh air that an actress as natural as Lawrence has become such a recognised action star. Once again, Lawrence is engaging and real in the central role, carrying over much of what made her stand-out so brilliantly in Winters Bone. As before, there’s a plus-serving of dark satire, once again aimed at reality television and its manipulative hold on the masses, which makes for a combination of creepy and knowing black humour.
In a sense, and much like the previous offering, it’s at its best when focusing on the controlling elements of the government and its insidious way of manufacturing an agenda through the media. There’s a hint that we, the viewers, are being told-off for investing so heavily in such things, in the real world. In that regard, the film sends a strikingly rebellious message. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Donald Sutherland make for a sinister double-act, and there remains unease around who Katniss is able to trust.
Aside from the strength of the performances, which all deliver, it’s disappointing to find so much similarity with the previous film, in terms of the overall narrative movement. The structure is so familiar, that it often feels like re-watching the first film. With many aspects worthy of praise, from the inventive visual effects to the eye-catching costume design, there’s sometimes a nagging feeling that we ought to be more invested. That said, with a finale that suggests a significant shift in tone for the next outing, we’re left on a semi-cliffhanger, that, while might not leave us starving for more, definitely keeps us peckish. 3.5/5