The Hunger Games: Catching Fire improves on the games in every way. A big reason being the change in directors that meant no more shaky cam and a stronger focus on emotion. Francis Lawrence brought Suzanne Collins’ world of Panem back to life in a way I wasn’t expecting. I was already on board with The Hunger Games, but now my brother joined me for the sequels. Catching Fire deepens the trauma felt by Victors Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. While at the same time addressing the love triangle between her and loyal District 12 friend Gale. A relationship made more complicated by the constant lense put on the “Star-crossed lovers.” Jennifer Lawrence just won an Oscar, but she’s still fully dedicated to the “Girl on Fire.” Her hair is appropriately darkened and Buttercup is actually an orange cat this time. Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson both make the choice between romantic leads a lot more convincing. Unfortunately, Katniss’ problems are just beginning when President Snow drops by for a visit. They share their first of many honest conversations with thinly veiled threats. Katniss, Prim, their mother, and Peeta are now staying in a nicer part of District 12 where Haymitch also lives. He continues to mentor them when their “Victory Tour” comes up. Effie also returns to coach them on how to speak to each District, but they both go off script.
Catching Fire increases the threat of the so-called peacekeepers by making them a much more evil faceless presence. They control the citizens and execute anyone who steps out of line. The tour does bring Katniss and Peeta closer together due to their shared experiences. It finally ends in the Capitol where they meet the first of many new characters. Philip Seymour Hoffman is another respected actor more than up to the task of mysterious new Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee. He convinces Snow to make life worse for the Districts while at the same time giving attention to Katniss’ wedding. Until an incident with a peacekeeper ignites the rebellion even more. Since the 75th Hunger Games are coming up, that means the use of a Quarter Quill. A change in games that occurs every 25 years. This year all Tributes are selected from a pool of past Victors. All in an effort to kill Katniss and stop the uprising. She can’t even say goodbye to Prim before being whisked off to very familiar places. There’s still the chariot ceremony with Cinna’s patented fire outfits, but now the special effects look so much better. The problem this time is the legion of experienced killers they’re up against. Haymitch runs through most of them, but only a few of them are worth remembering. Sam Claflin makes the strongest impression as handsome trident equipped secret keeper Finnick Odair. Same with Jena Malone as the unhinged and outspoken Johanna Mason. Other crucial Tributes are the scientifically proficient Wiress and Beetee played by Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer. Their beloved status in the Capitol makes the rule change especially controversial when Caesar’s interviews come around. Katniss makes the strongest impression by burning her wedding dress to reveal a Mockingjay underneath.
Something that cause the first death of a major character outside of the games. SPOILER ALERT! Cinna is killed right in front of Katniss as she prepares to enter the new jungle themed arena. Tributes must swim to the island Cornucopia. Katniss and Peeta form an unlikely alliance with Finnick and his elderly fellow Tribute Mags. They encounter a much more lethal Hunger Games with a lot less cutting back to the outside world. Peeta is nearly killed by the force field, poison gas kills Mags, and they’re all attacked by vicious mandrill Mutts. They do at least obtain a water spigot from a sponsor and Johanna joins them along with Wiress & Beetee. They’re tortured by a flock of loved one imitating jabberjays, but they do formulate a plan that tests each of their loyalty. They survive using the clock configuration of the arena and use the perfectly timed lightning bolt to their advantage. Katniss questions her teammates, but ultimately makes the right decision to electrify the force field with a shot from her bow & arrow. Causing her to be picked up by the book accurate hovercraft. It turns out Haymitch, Heavensbee, and Finnick were all in on a rebellion that lead to Peeta being captured along with Johanna and Finnick’s lover Annie. As well as the dramatic destruction of District 12. Catching Fire may mostly be a set up for the sequel, but its vastly improved presentation is well worth it. “May the odds be ever in your favor.”