Monday, December 2, 2013

MOVIE: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  Episode 2 of the trilogy.  If you did not see the opening movie or read the Suzanne Collins novels, you will probably not appreciate this film despite some excellent acting performances, particularly Jennifer Lawrence’s continuing role as Katniss Everdeen.  The games are an annual survivalist test sponsored by a suppressive government called Panem.  The opening episode introduced us to the Game and the surviving couple, Katniss and Peeta.  This episode opens with Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) embarking on a tour of the government districts.  Panem is a society comprised of a very rich elite living in the capitol city while the rest of the population, who reside in twelve different districts, are required to support the elite while working for minimal wages and with no political freedom.  Panem’s leader, President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland, is aware that Katniss has become a symbol of freedom to the population and would prefer her dead.  As she travels, Katniss observes revolutionary graffiti.  The individual in charge of the games, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, suggests to President Snow that there be a rule change as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of Panem surviving a catastrophic war.  The new rules are that prior winners must again play the survivor game.  There are a number of good actors in this film, including repeat performances by Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks as well as the addition of Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer.  The majority of the 146 minute movie  is spent laying the ground work for the revised version of the Hunger Games and episode 3.  Frequently the middle film in a trilogy is a transitional link and Catching Fire is more so than most.  If you come into the film without knowing anything about Panem or the Games, it will only be the acting that holds your attention.  Lawrence proves once again that she is the best among the young film actresses.  While the storyline kept me involved, the movie itself felt longer than its almost 2 and half hours - not a good sign when I catch myself looking at my watch.  My hunch is that episode 3 will be superb and may even require Sutherland to do more than just read his lines.  Unfortunately, as in “Harry Potter”, it appears the final episode will be split into two parts.  Bottom line on this film is that if you enjoyed episode one or have read the trilogy, there are enough good things about the movie that you should see it.  However, the opposite is equally as true.