Worldwide young adult book phenomenon 'The Hunger Games' translated into a successful first movie. Being a trilogy, you had a expect sequels.
Well, here is the second installment, 'Hunger Games: Catching Fire.'
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), having emerged as the unlikely co-victors of the Hunger Games, at the conclusion of the previous film. They are then put on a victory tour around the districts by President Snow (Donald Sutherland). It quickly becomes apparent that our beloved duo are being put onto a pedestal and are the symbols for an impending revolution against the establishment. This angers the president.
Coincidentally, it is time for the quarter quell, an event that gathers the winners of the last 25 Hunger Games and puts them into an arena to fight to the death. Whoever wins that, wins the ultimate prize...uhhh...not dying.
Will the brave Katniss and Peeta survive these proven, skilled champions, many of whom are gunning for them? Others still have ulterior motives. What of this so-called rebellion?
Frankly, the first hour and ten minutes are a little dull and slow-moving. It is mostly made up of Katniss and Peeta riding around on a train while President Snow mutters angrily and we get hints that a resistance movement is building momentum. Aside from some expository exchanges and a few of the veteran actors doing what they do, this part of the story is slow because it emphasizes dialog, watching news footage and training, which makes the audience feel as though they are at a distance from the truly interesting things happening in this world. In general, verbal exchanges are not the strength of this series.
The good news is, that once we get into the arena and the 'games' begin, we are in business. The second half of the film absolutely flies by. If you want action, suspense and some well-staged threats, this has it. It exceeds the first move by a mile in this department. An arena that unleashes a set of dangers in specific quadrants at given times is a fascinating concept and it looks nifty.
Character relationships, deception and some interesting sacrifices and decisions reveal that there is a little more going on that what the surface would have you believe. We are also treated to a respectable amount of violence, considering this comes from young adult source material.
Lawrence is again great. Harrelson holds his own and Sutherland is dandy. Philip Seymour Hoffman also has an important role here. One has to wonder if his parts in the upcoming movies were filmed before his passing. That could create a dilemma.
Special features include: a sneak peek at 'Divergent', commentary, deleted scenes, and other movies from Lionsgate.
'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' lives up to the hopes and expectations of the series' fans. Since the third book will be divided into two movies (a common practice these days) people who have come this far and have enjoyed themselves should prepare for the inevitable gouging as they seek resolution.
Add an extra half star to this review.
Rated PG-13 146 minutes 2014