Review – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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Despite the fact that the opening salvo of the Hunger Games series plucked a downtrodden pauper from a life of hardship and worsened an already naff existence by flinging her unceremoniously into a hellish fight to the death, I never felt a genuine sense of despair or danger. The film drew upon interesting ideas already established in 1984, Battle Royale and The Running Man and the body count was damn high, but I never felt it was bleak enough. For a cynical slice of dystopia, it seemed a tad too flashy for my tastes.

Happily, Director Francis Lawrence has introduced some ugliness into the series with a sequel which feels more considered, measured and adult. It is indeed a dark time for the rebellion.

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), having survived their stints as offerings for District 12, are back home and about to settle into a life on tour, waxing lyrical on behalf of the suits In Panem’s Capitol region. Inspired by her antics in front of the camera, the unwashed masses across the Districts have begun voicing their discontent and, keen to nip an uprising in the bud and with her under his thumb, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) sends Katniss out, tramping the length and breadth of the country, spouting propaganda to deter the revolting proles.

A game of two halves, Catching Fire digs into the dirty world of Big Brother and desperate class warfare, before pitching its heroes back into the firing line of yet another Hunger Games (conveniently foisted on us as a rarely-seen “Quarter Quell”). It’s in the first half that it really excels, examining a post-traumatic life under media scrutiny and the rumblings of revolt amongst the embittered working-classes.

The public floggings and executions are all nicely downbeat and this is as more adult movie with a robust and brave, yet emotionally and morally conflicted heroine. The corpulent excess of the Capitol is more noticeably vile; the contrast with the immense poverty being felt elsewhere is much more tangible.

For a worrying while it feels like that good work is all undone as Catching Fire begins to retread old ground with a second half that churns out another makeover – training montage – into deathmatch arc; but it’s saved by a welcome smattering of cannon-fodder oddjobs and an enticing narrative twist lacking from the previous film.

It might seem like a guilty pleasure, but it shouldn’t be; this time out Hunger Games is a darker, smarter beast. It’s the film I was hoping for first time round, and what fun it is to be able to say that.


Chris Banks

Sci-Fi, Action,Post Apocalyptic, Young Adult
Lionsgate Films
Release Date:
21st November 2013(UK) 22nd November 2013 (USA)
Joseph Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland