Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

4.0

CatchingFire
The Girl on Fire: Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss Everdeen

Last year I was absolutely surprised with the quality of The Hunger Games, the first adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ distopic saga. I remember thinking that one of the movie’s major flops was in it’s conclusion: in my opinion, it’d have been perfect that the story ended with the death of it’s leading characters as a symbol of defiance, invalidating the need of a sequel. However, once again I was absolutely surprised, now with the way that Collins and the filmmakers were able to develop the story with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. That rare example of a sequel as good as the original.

The plot starts approximately one year following the events of the first movie, with the approach of The Hunger Games’ 75th edition, which is celebrated in the form of the Quarter Quell – a special version that envolves only the winners of previous editions. Amid the chaotic scenary, we find Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) struggling against President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) violent pressure when her image beggins to inspire riots and rebelions through all the Capital. Apart from it, she finds herself confused with her faked relationship with former winner Peeta Melark (Josh Hutcherson) and her friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth).

Oh, no! Another major love triangle on a juvenil adaptation! Here comes Twilight again, save yourselves!

No.

Luckily, Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt’s screenplay chooses to concentrate on its simple (but effective) social commentary and the political intrigues, leaving the love triangle on the back burner. Not that this narrative line comes out underdeveloped (which kind of does, since Hemsworth’s character preety much disappears after the Games begin), it comes out in the right moment, with a very controlled amount of time, leading to the creation of a strange relationship – something profitable to the plot, making it pointless Katniss’ expression of the situation: we get it. However, the big merit of the oscar-winning duo’s script is in the fantastic work with the characters relations during the Games, that requires the formation of alliances; even that those people will inevitably be forced to kill each other in the end. For that reason, it makes all the difference in the world when Woody Harelson’s Haymitch says that he hopes one of the competitors don’t suffer too much, for “she’s a wonderful woman”. We’re talking about humans here, not killing machines.

Replacing Gary Ross, director Francis Lawrence (who is now responsible for the two next franchise’s installments) radically alters the series language with a secure, steady direction. On literally means, since Lawrence exonerates his predecessor’s excessive hand-held camera, choosing for more stable and open plans, which ultimately gives more value to the big production design and its excellent cast. Led by talented Jennifer Lawrence, whose Katniss’ detailed construction (strong and seemingly unbreakable through the movie, but explosive desperate during dangerous, tragic situations) continues to impress, Catching Fire benefits from a group of interesting, multifaceted new characters: from Sam Claffins’ charismatic Finnick Odair, through out Jena Malone’s bold Johanna to Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s complex Plutarch Heavensbee (How does Collins comes up those names, huh?). I was also surprised with the presence of Pulp Fiction‘s Honeybunny, Amanda Plummer, on a relatively big role.

Topping the first movie in preety much every aspect, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a sequel that inteligently develops the concepts from the original. The movie fails only by leaving the spectator with an abrupt, cliff hanger ending that leaves the responsability of carring on the story with it’s next installments. But differently than my reaction in 2012, I am now genuinely interested in more material from this fascinating universe.

Obs: Like Christopher Nolan’s work on his Dark Knight Trilogy, director Francis Lawrence shot several scenes with IMAX cameras. If possible, watch the movie on that format.

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