Directed by Francis Lawrence
Written by Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt
Based on the novel by Suzanne Collins
The first Hunger Games movie was what should be looked for in an adaptation: perfectly grasping the book’s elements, creating a quiet atmosphere that manages to differentiate itself from the book, and adding in elements to help the overall story. It’s the kind of adaptation that simultaneously helped the visuals of the book and stood on its own for new viewers. And while I haven’t read Catching Fire, I was hoping it would easily match the first movie in quality, and it (mostly) does.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) have won the 74th Hunger Games, but things aren’t exactly going great for them on their Victory Tour, especially since they’re getting the ire of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) thanks to inciting a revolution. Ultimately, Snow and new game runner Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) devise a plan to get rid of both victors, and it all revolves around the 75th Hunger Games.
This movie is very neatly divided into two halves, and quite honestly, the first half is where the movie shines more. The first half deals entirely with the Victory Tour and the buildup to the Hunger Games, and it’s a nice show of the pure bleakness of the franchise. The dazzling set design and cinematography takes you right into a world where people can be shot and beaten in the middle of an assembly, and even if people bat an eye at it, they know there’s nothing they can do about it. At the same time, the plans of Snow and Plutarch quickly show that they can only stop the revolution for so long. It’s a world where the fuse is lit and the fascinating part is watching people try to put it out while others are just making it go faster. I haven’t read Mockingjay, so I have no idea what this is leading up to ultimately, but I’m excited to see it.
The second half of the movie focuses on the 75th Hunger Games, and…well, it’s entertaining. This is more of the special effects and action part of the movie, and it’s obvious the effects budget has been bumped up, with far better looking effects. There’s even a fairly good-looking fog effect. The main problem with this half of the movie is that everything just happens so fast. It’s basically “The contestants run into this one thing, then they run into the next, then the next thing happens”. And the movie also puts Katniss with other people, which takes away the quiet atmosphere that made the first movie so fascinating and turns it into something more standard. The second half of the movie isn’t bad, it just doesn’t quite match up to the first half or the first movie.
Catching Fire doesn’t quite match up to the first movie, but it’s still interesting and entertaining. A good enough continuation, if somewhat flawed.