Christmas is on its way, and with it comes the big holiday movies. With Harry Potter and Twilight out of the way, “The Hunger Games” is perhaps the biggest book adaptation around at the moment, with the second Hobbit film following in a month. The original “Hunger Games” movie was a global smash and – unlike “Twilight” – had a solid fanbase lined up from Day 1, so it was going to take a lot to top it, and its huge box office gross.
For my money, I’d say that “Catching Fire” certainly held its own against the original film. I think I enjoyed the book a bit more when I read the trilogy last Autumn, though I saw the first film before I read the first book so it’s not quite playing fair. There’s certainly plenty going on in this sequel, even if the ending suffers the usual fate of the middle movie, with a perhaps unnecessary “to be continued” style ending.
At nearly 150 minutes long, “Catching Fire” tries to preserve as much of the source material, and I think they did a good job of selecting just enough to make a coherent story without skimping on the action. It doesn’t sag in the middle, but – knowing the story – I was flagging a bit by the time the actual Games start. But I suppose it’s a testament to the adaptation that I never felt there were filler scenes.
To get you up to speed, in a post-war country ruled by a President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) dictatorship and divide-and-rule machinations, an annual ‘game’ is held to show the twelve districts who’s boss. This is done by randomly selecting a teenage boy & girl from each district and pitting these 24 candidates in a televised fight to the death.
But Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) subverted last year’s game by threatening to commit suicide, forcing the Capitol to declare both of them winners. This act unwittingly triggered unrest and rebellion in the districts, putting Katniss, Peeta and their families in grave danger. President Snow threatens a traumatised Katniss, charging her with putting down the rebellion, but it’s too late – as events unfold Snow has to play dirty to eliminate this threat.
Lawrence is the undisputed focus of the film, with even key players like Peeta and Katniss’s love interest Gale (Thor’s sexy real-life brother Liam Hemsworth) reduced to fairly modest supporting roles. But the supporting cast as a whole are well-rounded characters and defined memorably on film. Particular well-rounded was Finnick (Sam Claflin)… mercy!
There’s not really a weak link to be honest, the story flows well, the effects are fantastic, the cast are great. Perhaps the teen angst/romance angle is a bit heavy-handed in places but those moments are fleeting. Even as the ‘middle film’ it’s a thoroughly gripping and entertaining. I thought the third book “Mockingjay” was a bit crazy, and I’ve heard they are splitting that into two films as they tend to do these days. But I’ll definitely be interested to see how that pans out.