The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Let's get this out of the way first - no, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is not a traditional horror film. Neither was the previous film in the series, The Hunger Games: No Subtitle Needed, but I reviewed that (here) so deal with it. I also wrote a rather good (if I do say so myself) In Defense Of...article - you should read that too. Rather than a straight horror film what The Hunger Games is is a blending of genres, including horror to create what should be an epic story. Most epic films cannot be categorized so simply, they borrow a bit from many genres and combining those genres into a greater work of art. Star Wars certainly in a Science Fiction film, but it borrows heavily from Japanese Kurosawa films, Arthurian legend, romance epics (Luke and Leia - it's gross I know), westerns (Han Solo is the coolest cowboy in the galaxy) and many many others, including horror (Darth Vader - enough said). So it goes without saying that it is well within the realm of the DW to cover The Hunger Games, it's sequels and all related material. If you don't like it? Get your own site.

Picking up where the last film left off, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are still Hunger Games champions and everyone seems to think they are in love with each other. Everyone that is, except Katniss, Peeta, President Snow, Effie, Haymitch, Gale and Katniss' family. Kind of a large circle of non-believers, but that's not really the point. The point is that Katniss and her thwarting of the Games protocol wasn't seen by most in the districts as an action of true love - though most believe the two really do love each other, it's seen more as an act of defiance. It's an action the suppressed masses use as a rallying point against the inequities perpetrated by the capital.

As Katniss and Peeta are set to begin their victory tour through the various districts of Panem, she is visited by none other than President Snow himself. His message - he knows the thing with Peeta is bullshit. He also knows that her little act of defiance is the spark that his ignited rebellion across the districts and that he's leaving it up to Katniss to convince the districts that not only is her love for Peeta real, but the idea that she should be seen as a Joan of Arc type martyr is wrong and the Capital should be respected. Should she fail to do this, not only will she suffer, but everyone she loves - really loves will suffer.

The victory tour (not the Jacksons one from the 80's) starts off poorly and just goes downhill from there. At the first stop both Katniss and Peeta go off script, giving heartfelt speeches about the losses they received because of the games. When one citizen raises his hand and whistles Katnisses mockingjay call he is beaten and eventually shot. This would have been shocking had we not already seen shots of the rebellion breaking out in other districts in the first film. Instead, we are left to enjoy these leftovers. Like day old baked ziti, it's good but not quite as good as the original. Things get worse from there. Even when trying to read from the cards Peeta and Katniss find themselves in a whole world of shit.

Once in the capital President Snow (Donald Sutherland and his awesome beard) voices his displeasure with Peeta and Katniss before introducing them to the new games maker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Heavensbee for his part, shares a creepy dance with Katniss before heading off to plot her demise with President Snow. That demise will come (they hope) as part of the special "quarter quell games" a special celebration of the games that takes place every twenty five years allowing the Games Maker to add some special wrinkles into the game. This quarter quell wrinkle? All of the games participants will be drawn from their districts previous games winners. Katniss is in by default. Peeta volunteers as tribute for Haymitch.

Until this point the film is wonderful. It's miles better than the first film. New director Frances Lawrence (I am Legend, Water For Elephants) and new screen writers Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and Michael deBruyn (Toy Story 3) handle the more melancholy parts of the script, Katniss and Peeta, Katniss and Gale, the on coming rebellion, light years better than the first films regime. Unfortunately the action (and most horror-esque) part of the film - the actual quarter quell games is marginalized and pushed to the rear burner. This could be a function of the source material as the original novel by Susanne Collins does the exact same thing. it sacrifices the ingenuity of the games for the bigger picture rebellion story line. Either way it leaves the last half of the film lacking. And a flat third act, which Catching Fire certainly has usually spells certain doom for a film. Luckily, Lawrence and Co. do so much right during the first two acts and raise the bar so high that the lack of tension or drama in a rushed third act don't kill the film.

In the end, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (doesn't that sound like code for getting an STD?) is an improvement over it's predecessor. Whereas the original Hunger Games started slow and finished strong, this one does the opposite. It will be interesting to see where Lawrence takes the franchise through the last two films. The last book in the series is by far the worst and most uneven of the series. Without any games and wholly steeped in the rebellion, Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2 look to be even more different that the first film was to the second.

***1/2 stars out *****

Thanks For Reading..."Enjoy Every Sandwich"

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