I find it a little odd that The Hunger Games series is as popular as it is considering its subject matter. People of all ages seem to be reading the books and watching the movies and loving them. The titular Hunger Games are a battle to the death between teenagers from the ages of 12 to 18. One male and one female from each district of Panem, where this story takes place, are picked at random to participate in the Hunger Games. Many of these people do not want to be a part of this battle. What ensues is violence and an overall bleak look at this fictional world (or is it a future Earth?). The only hope seems to come in the beautiful, bright, and young Katniss Everdeen who voluntarily joins the Hunger Games in place of her younger sister who was originally picked to participate.
Katniss Everdeen, as played by current acting sensation Jennifer Lawrence, is breathtakingly beautiful, very resourceful, and equally sensitive. She is a hero that is easy to root for and perhaps it is her character that has really created the mass appeal of this franchise. She is certainly front and center in all of the movies' marketing campaigns. Beyond her personality and looks, Katniss Everdeen is just a really cool sounding name. It's a name that can certainly sell a countless number of products.
Enough about the main hero though. A lot of the real interest in this series comes from the side characters. First up is Peeta Mellark, the male selected participant, or tribute as they call them, for the Hunger Games from Katniss' District 12. While Katniss may be a sensitive person she is nothing compared to Peeta. He is a constant living form of regret, general depression, and unrequited love. He is easily the character in this series that is most subject to pity or perhaps annoyance at his unchanging, unhappy, outlook on life. In a way, he is a one note character, but it makes sense that he would be this way and his constant sad story creates a desire to continue the story so as to see if his life ever takes a more positive turn. Josh Hutcherson does a good job in this role that really carries the most emotional weight contained in the story.
There are several other great side characters in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The first is Woody Harrelson's character of Haymitch Abernathy. Haymitch is the comedic drunk of the film. He is also a former winner of the Hunger Games who is assigned in the first movie and this sequel to help prepare Katniss for the Hunger Games. It is a fun role that provides some nice quick doses of comedic dialogue to give some padding to the mostly hard and serious tone of the film.
The second side character of interest is Effie Trinket as played by Elizabeth Banks. Effie Trinket is the escort to the two tributes from District 12. She is heavily covered in makeup and various accessories that create a look that is both elegant and humorous. Her attempts to maintain an eternal positive and classy attitude in the face of such a dire event is very amusing to watch. Elizabeth Banks really has brought to life a fascinating one of a kind character with this role.
The third side character to take note of is Caesar Flickerman, the always smiling host of the Hunger Games, played by Stanley Tucci. This man has such a cheesy, faux sincere, look and attitude about him that is always entertaining to watch. His amazingly bright and big white set of teeth in particular are a constant source of entertainment in this series of films.
Of course, a good action movie is always made better by a great villain. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has that villain in President Snow. Actually, not much is known about President Snow so far in the series other than that he is indeed evil, but he is played in such a convincingly diabolical way by Donald Sutherland that it is impossible not to feel the effects of his evil ways. Part of the excitement in this series is the anticipation of the eventual attack on and possible fall of this wicked character.
Lenny Kravitz, who in a movie like Precious felt out of place and not qualified to really be an actor, actually fits in very well as the costume designer for Katniss Everdeen. He brings a nice, heartwarming, quality to his character of Cinna. He really feels like he could be a big brother to Katniss as he offers support and, of course, incredible dresses for Katniss to wear.
New to the series is Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character of Plutarch Heavensbee (what a name!), the so called game master behind the Hunger Games. His character is intentionally a little mysterious and hard to read, but his intentions are made clear by the end of the film. He has moments of pure delicious evil in the film that surpass even the main villain of President Snow in providing sinister entertainment. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, like many of this cast, is truly a master of his craft and appears to be having fun with this role.
Not all characters are created equal, however. Liam Hemsworth's character of Gale Hawthorne is really not much more than eye candy. His character could use some more depth and perhaps this will happen in the next two films in the series. As it stands, he is simply nothing more than an object to be used in a romantic triangle that is developing between Katniss, Peeta, and himself. Liam Hemsworth has done a fine job with what he has been given to do, but it truthfully has not been much.
Another criticism of the movie comes in its ending. The movie ends with a revelation that is hard not to see coming. This revelation is played as a big surprise in the movie and serves as the final moment in the film. Due to the revelation seeming quite inevitable, it really doesn't have the impact that the filmmakers probably felt it did. It is not the strongest moment to leave the audience with as they await the next installment of the series. That said, it doesn't lessen any the anticipation for what is to come next in the story.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, like its predecessor, is filled with thrills, romance, and most importantly, characters that are very memorable and entertaining to watch. If the rest of the series continues the quality of the first two films then we can count this series among those worth keeping close to our hearts.