Katniss Everdeen has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark.
Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a "Victor's Tour" of the districts.
Along the way, Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell)—a competition that could change Panem forever.
What we thought:
In a movie industry where the heroes are predominantly male, Katniss Everdeen shines a bright torch for the female kind, and an even brighter one against the conventionality of Hollywood celebrity.
The second instalment of the The Hunger Games franchise, Catching Fire, is an apt title as the franchise has definitely left a blazing trail in its wake. Not to take anything away from the writer Suzanne Collins, the story of Panem and Katniss could have very easily fallen into the abyss alongside Mortal Instruments and Beautiful Creatures, but has rather cemented its spot amongst Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter as an iconic series with the second movie.
I am glad to say that I have actually read the Catching Fire book (I am still to get my hands on the final one) and I am impressed with how true to the story the movie is, especially the arena. It was impressive to see how close the movie Quarter Quell arena looked to the one I had in my head – it was uncanny (which shows the amazingness of Collins’ way with words), but there were a few tweaks that left me a bit confused.
The role of the new Gamemaker, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, was changed somewhat, leaving out an important bit from the book as well as giving him more agency in how the Quarter Quell was modelled, which was a very different picture in the book.
Also, unfortunately for Liam Hemsworth fans, Gale was pushed again to a minor supporting role, as was Peeta. The backflashes to how Haymitch won his Hunger Games, which was also at Quarter Quell, was also left out, which is important in explaining his character. Katniss dominated the screen time (and rightly so) but sometimes you would wish for a bit more input from the male leads.
Other than that, Jennifer Lawrence is definitely becoming the Queen of Hollywood. Her biggest asset is her ability to balance strength with vulnerability, as Katniss wavers between being frightened for her loved ones and then standing up against the Capitol, which Lawrence pulls off like a pro. If you compare her to that of Kristen Stewart in Twilight (just bare with me) who struggles with showing any form of strength or Lily Collins in Mortal Instruments who is too unfazed with what happens to her, you understand why she won an Oscar.
Although it does have its share of violent scenes, director Francis Lawrence – who replaced Gary Ross from the first movie – commented that he went with less gore and more on the reactions to the violence. This is very true, especially as it isn’t children killing each other, but much older victors.
The movie isn’t completely different from the first one however and it’s good that Lawrence kept in tune with Ross’ basic style, which is a bit jarring with Harry Potter’s obvious changes in directors.
And the fashion... Catching Fire definitely went all out with its marketing campaign (check out the Capitol Couture website) and the costume designer Trish Summerville should be applauded for her amazing work. It takes decadence to another level, as well as having a pivotal role in Katniss’ show of resistance against President Snow. Not only should Summerville at least get an Oscar nod for Best Costume Design, one should also be impressed how amazingly Elizabeth Banks, who plays the glamorous Effie Trinket, pulls off her outfits without it looking like the dresses and makeup wear her.
At the end, I almost wished I didn’t read the book just so I could be surprised with all the twists, which were all spectacularly done. A poignant story about a person who reluctantly becomes a symbol for hope and rebellion which fits into a world post-Arab Spring.