The Hunger Games:
November 22, 2013
2 hours 26 minutes
Movies rarely ever get me so excited and pumped when it ends that it makes me jump out of my seat and just scream "YES" in front of hundreds of teens. And yet, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is one of those rare exceptions. It's obvious that this movie is targeted mostly towards the teeny bopper crowd of this generation, but what this series has done that others like "Twilight" have failed at is to appeal to almost every demographic out there. Guys can enjoy these movies almost as much, if not more, than the ladies that may or may not be dragging the men to theater in the first place. And as somebody who has read all three books in the series, I was really excited to see this film. The first "Hunger Games" was a good film, but it had a lot of shaky cam, a lack of character development in certain spots, and some awful special effects. This movie has none of those problems, surprisingly, and for a movie that clocks in around 2 and a half hours, it never drags and successfully manages to get the audience emotionally invested in the story. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" isn't just the best sequel of the year, but it may also be the single best blockbuster to hit the big screen this year.
In case you haven't seen the first film, here's a little recap: a futuristic America has been split into 12 different districts with one big Capitol called "Panem." In order to maintain peace in the districts, The Capitol orchestrates a televised event every year where boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 18 fight to the death until there is one lone victor standing. Katniss Everdeen volunteered as tribute when her younger sister Prim got chosen at the female victor of their district, District 12. So Katniss, along with the male victor Peeta Mellark, end up winning the games after killing the other victors and standing up against the Capitol by nearly killing themselves with poisonous berries.
"Catching Fire" takes place immediately after the events of the first film, and Katniss and Peeta are about to embark on a "Victory Tour" across the 12 districts to act like celebrities basically. President Snow is not happy with Katniss' supposed rebellion towards the Capitol, which has caused a revolution to spark in the 12 districts. Katniss is trying to keep control with the situation, but things just aren't going well. So with the 75th annual Hunger Games, aka the third "Quarter Quell" coming up, President Snow has devious and special plans for "The Girl on Fire." Because he is able to change the way the games are done every Quarter Quell, Snow plans to eliminate Katniss and Peeta, along with 22 other past victors from the other 11 districts by bringing them back into the arena to fight to the death.
Jennifer Lawrence continues to prove herself as one of the best young actresses of this generation. At only 23, she has made herself a legit household name, as well as being nominated twice for the Best Actress Oscar, and winning this past year for "Silver Linings Playbook." In this movie, Lawrence envelops herself into this character and makes the audience see past the actress and see herself as Katniss Everdeen. This might be my favorite performance of Lawrence's resume to date because she shows that even the strongest of heroes get emotional when someone they love dearest is in peril. Josh Hutcherson has also proven himself from the last film, and here he shows true emotion in his character Peeta. I feel that he's more believable as the character, whereas in the first movie it felt like he wasn't pulling it off to his fullest potential. In fact, the chemistry between Katniss and Peeta is significantly more believable and emotional in this movie than it was in the first movie. Everyone else from the first film is great as always here, including Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, and Liam Hemsworth, and luckily the newcomers to the series are no exceptions.
Sam Claflin's portrayal of Finnick is practically dead on when comparing him to the persona and tone of the character in the book. He emulates the type of sarcasm and charm that just makes you love this character in the first place. Jena Malone is an all-around badass as Johanna, and you never know whether or not she's trying to help Katniss or kill her, just like the character in the book. Jeffery Wright is really good as the tech-savvy Beetee, and once again delivers another great performance in his career. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays head game-maker Plutarch Heavensbee, and what I love about this character is how subtle and mysterious his evil is for the most part. All of these characters are great overall, and I can't wait to see a lot of these newcomers in the next film.
I give props to screenwriters Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt, as well as director Francis Lawrence, for bringing some fresh new life into this film. Beaufoy is best known for writing the screenplays for "Slumdog Millionaire" and "127 Hours," and Arndt is known for writing "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Toy Story 3" respectively, and these two together not only made me feel for these characters throughout the film, but they also did an amazing job at translating this book onto the big screen. Aside from a couple of things that were omitted for time, this movie stays so incredibly true to the story, and it was almost as if these guys went into the minds of the series' fans and learned what they wanted to see in this flick. Lawrence, best known for directing "I Am Legend" and the underrated "Water For Elephants," manages to take his time telling this story, and when the action part of the film comes about 80 or so minutes in, there's no shaky cam whatsoever, and the action is well-paced and pretty damn exciting. Gary Ross did a fine job adapting the original book to the big screen, but the guys behind this movie did a better job bringing this book to the big screen.
For those who were disappointed with the first "Hunger Games," let me assure you that this is the movie that fans of the series have been waiting for. Everything that was flawed in the first movie has been improved here, including but not limited to the special effects, shaky cam, and character development. The acting is superb, particularly from Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, however the newcomers to the series also do a great job at emulating their characters. Director Francis Lawrence and screenwriters Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt have created a movie that is emotional and entertaining at the same time, and I give huge props to them for pulling that off. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" may not be the best movie you see all year, but it is the best sequel that I've personally seen this year. In fact, I'd argue that this movie is up on the lines of "Toy Story 2" and "The Empire Strikes Back" as one of the best sequels of all time.
Me Interviewing Bruno Gunn (Brutus),
Jeffery Wright (Beetee), and Sam Claflin (Finnick) at
"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" Victory Tour On
Sunday November 3, 2013 at the Cherry Hill Mall!!!!
Check Out My Full Interview Coverage, Including
Scott Menzel's Interview with Jena Malone (Johanna):