The critically acclaimed Hunger Games saga has returned with its eagerly anticipated second instalment, Catching Fire. Last time we saw Jennifer Lawrence’s determined heroine Katniss Everdeen, she was being crowned victor of the 74th annual Hunger Games, and celebrated as a hero back in her hometown of District 12. There’s no doubt that the first in the trilogy was superb, and surprised all doubters, the second certainly carries on this tradition, and even, dare I say it, betters its predecessor.
Catching Fire takes place in the same futuristic kingdom where the first one left us and the aesthetic contrasts of the oppressed poorer districts to the Capitol are intriguing and visually stunning. With Katniss’s controversial victory in the first film, revolution is in the air, and President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) ruthless reign is becoming more and more under pressure. Along with his media chief (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) Snow decides to stage another Hunger Games with only previous winners in order to kill Katniss and in turn halting the revolution.
The film certainly does not lack in action, but you do find yourself waiting for the Games themselves to actually begin, and it is a very long wait. The games were a highlight in the first instalment, and the same can certainly be said for the second; this time they take place in a tropical jungle, filled with vicious baboons and poisonous fog, it is, again, visually stunning, much like the film as a whole. The brutal violence that was so common in the first film is also present in the sequel, although it is not quite as shocking as its predecessor, some scenes do still force you to turn away.
Playing alongside the action is the two love interests of Katniss, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is again, sidelined as our heroine heads off to the games, where she reignites her other love interest, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Katniss appears to switch between the two throughout the film, and you do find yourself confused as to where her allegiances lie, unless you have read the books of course.
However, the highlight of the film lies with Lawrence’s performance of the admirable young heroine, Katniss. As an actress, Lawrence has shot to fame in the last few years, truly cemented by her Ocar winning performance in Silver Linings Playbook. She doesn’t disappoint here either, she’s exceedingly watchable as our protagonist, and as an audience we are always with her, routing for her, as she battles against crazed baboons, ruthless contestants and her developing status as a revolutionary icon.
Catching Fire really is a marvellous watch that undoubtedly betters its predecessor. Its two and a half hour running time does make it a slow burner to begin with, but the wait is truly worth it and the film has you gripped on the edge of your seat, especially in the second half. If there is one film you see before returning home for the holidays, make sure it is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.