The second installment of the beloved Hunger Games series hits screens and fixes a few of the minor complaints addressed in the first film. First and foremost, The Hunger Games made enough money to warrant a much larger budget, making it a bigger spectacle and far more visually-impressive entry into the series. The second successful change took the form of a new director, Francis (I am Legend, Constantine) Lawrence. But the third and perhaps most impressive aspect that differed from the first film was the added touch of genuine acting ability. Some would say that it is due to the return of all surviving cast members and the familiarity of the role, but others would argue that they were properly portrayed because of a significantly more talented director helping them do so.
A-listers Jennifer (Silver Linings Playbook, X-Men: First Class) Lawrence, Josh (Red Dawn, Detention) Hutcherson, and Liam (Paranoia, Empire State) Hemsworth return to the big screen, alongside additional star-power in the form of Woody (Game Change, Rampart) Harrelson, Donald (MASH, Ordinary People) Sutherland, Lenny (The Butler, Precious) Kravitz, Stanley (The Devil Wears Prada, The Terminal) Tucci, and Elizabeth (People Like Us, Role Models) Banks. The talent is properly utilized in this installment, showcasing some genuine acting ability that makes a second watch of the original film seem amateurish and poorly made. The emotions are high, the stakes are more believable, and the characters seem realistic this go around. New cast members Phillip Seymour (Capote, Mission: Impossible III) Hoffman, Jeffrey (Casino Royale, Source Code) Wright, and Jena (Sucker Punch, Hatfields & McCoys) Malone are just a few examples of additional casting done right.
The concept of the last book being divided into two separate films seems not only understandable, but necessary. This film, which runs 246 minutes, seemed a little disjointed, almost as if it would have benefited from being two films itself. The lighting was improved, so the scenes that took place at night didn't seem like a waste of screen time, as they did in the first film, but as it stands, the last 40 minutes of the film seemed rushed. It is understandable that the producers would want to capitalize on the frenzy of this franchise by making the last two films an extended story of what was essentially one book, but it begs the question of just how greedy Lionsgate really is, when this story would have been the natural choice for possible expansion into further films. Regardless of the outcome, it was far better than the original and will most assuredly build more excitement when the credits roll. Anticipation for this film was high. Anticipation for the next two will be unmatched for quite some time.