The Girl on Fire and the boy who loves her are back in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Fresh off their win in the game changing 74th Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta are far from being in sync with one another. Dealing with the trauma that surviving such a brutal event brings and the disorientation of returning to their previous lives, the teenage pair stumble around their home unsure of their places there and with each other. But, there is no time to linger on inner turmoil with the Victory Tour around the corner. Katniss and Peeta must don happy faces to convince President Snow of their undying devotion to one another and appreciation for the Capitol’s big brother-esque guidance when the tour shows them unrest in the districts.
This time around Katniss and Peeta find their journeys entwined with other Hunger Games victors. They’ll meet a Career victor with teeth filed to points and a man called Brutus, whose name says it all. They’ll also meet Finnick Odair and Johanna Mason, two victors barely older than our heroes of District 12 yet far ahead of them in Capitol savvy. The Capitol’s real ace in the hole is new Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee, as played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. The Hunger Games he has in store for the 75th round, the Quarter Quell as it is known in Panem, will make the one Katniss and Peeta fought through seem like child’s play.
Returning stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, and Elizabeth Banks turn in stellar performances as the team from outlying District 12. Banks shines above the rest portraying Effie’s progression from detached guide to caring, frightened friend. New to the series, Jena Malone (Sucker Punch, Step Mom) and Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman) demand attention as Johanna and Finnick. Clearly dangerous and deceptive, their loyalties are masked from the cameras and any with whom they form alliances. Donald Sutherland and Hoffman fill the room with tension every single time they are on screen.
The film, directed by Francis Lawrence, with screenplay by Simon Beufoy and Michael Arndt, does an admirable job of bringing the book to life, though literary purists will no doubt find some elements of the story lacking. Where the Suzanne Collins’ book delved into how winning the Hunger Games has shaped the psyches’ of its collection of winners, the movie glosses over these nuances to focus on the dissidents between Katniss and Peeta and the leap of faith they must take in trusting others. Noticeably absent are Twill and Bonnie of District 8, though the significance of their scenes in the book are translated to the screen in other ways.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire DVD is available in several formats. A basic DVD edition comes with audio commentary deleted scenes, and Divergent sneak peak. A 2-disc set is available including the basic DVD, plus Blu-Ray with the same features as well as the exclusive “Surviving the Game: Making Catching Fire” documentary. Target has an exclusive 3-disc set with the DVD, Blu-Ray, and a DVD special features disc with “The Alliance,” “Friend or Foe,” and “One Vision” featurettes. Best Buy is promoting a special Blu-Ray Steelbook Edition featuring a metal cover over plastic. Good luck finding the edition that works best for you. And may the odds be ever in your favor.