The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Poster
“You saved my life. You gave me a chance.” | “Yes, to live.” | “No, to do something.”

The reluctant heroine Katniss Everdeen has won the 74th Hunger Games and with it she has unwittingly brought hope to the 12 districts of Panem. This is a problem for The Capitol. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) wants to get rid of her…and fast. New GamesMaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) offers up a cruel ingenious plan to serve the President’s wishes. In order to celebrate 75 years of The Hunger Games, the Quarter Quell, he concocts a dark way to mark the anniversary. To pit all the winners against each other and only one can survive.

The Victory Tour is the first port of call and Katniss must continue to feign her love (or does she?) for Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) in order to pacify the masses. As they go from district to district, she becomes more aware of her impact and one particularly poignant scene from the book is captured brilliantly.

Francis Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer) is the new director and he has done an impressive job taking over from Gary Ross. Without messing too much with Ross’ vision, he has still managed to add a new dimension to the franchise, thankfully minus the over the top shaky cam. With the meticulously crafted I Am Legend and Water For Elephants under his belt, he has brought with him a touch of the bleak to symbolise the darker themes explored in this instalment. He was hired just 20 weeks before shooting began, but he seems to have handled the challenge well. He, with the help of Collin’s novel and screenwriters Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt, effectively explain the effects of Katniss’ rule-bending win on her world and beyond. It’s particularly depressing when the similarities between The Hunger Games can be seen already as part of our regular weekend TV schedule. The interview scenes wouldn’t feel out of place on our TV screens today.

The special effects are significantly better (thank you Double Negative London) and the characters are more fleshed out. Stanley Tucci is still amazing as the scarily upbeat show host Caesar Flickerman who steals every scene he is in. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) shows more heart and solidarity with her tributes, and an increasingly crazy fashion sense. The previous victors that Katniss and Peeta encounter are to some extent still 1 dimensional because of their sheer number. However, Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Wiress (Amanda Plummer), Finnick (a funny, cheeky Sam Claflin), Mags (Lynn Cohen) and Johanna (Jena Malone) make their mark. Jennifer Lawrence skilfully portrays a young 17-year-old suffering from the consequences of her actions, through survivor’s guilt and PTSD. And one who has not chosen to become the revolutionary her nation seems to be seeking, but who step-by-step begins to realise that something must be done. Sutherland is bone-chillingly evil as the President who will do anything to keep his empire and his people submissive.

And with the third biggest UK opening of 2013, it seems the public still has a taste for more of The Hunger Games. The second part offered up more morsels than the first, with a bigger budget, better script and paying more heed to the details. It gave much needed prominence to the mockingjay pin that was glossed over in the first film, whilst also more accurately portraying the arena and the events leading up to it. For the book lovers, you may be annoyed by the fact that they mess, to some extent, with the timeline of the second book, as I was. I’m hoping this is just because they’ll address it in the upcoming Mockingjay two-parter.

What did you think? Did it set you alight or just another typical blockbuster? Your turn on the soapbox in 3, 2, 1.