Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89% (Critics) / 93% (Audience)
Directed By: Francis Lawrence
Written By: Michael Arndt and Simon Beaufoy
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Jena Malone and Donald Sutherland
Studio: Lionsgate Films
Synopsis: Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem. – (Source)
I love Jennifer Lawrence…she is my favorite young actress of the last 10-15 years and her ability to glide from heavy drama to romantic comedy to genre fare like THE HUNGER GAMES and those X-Men movies is uncanny and not something that many in Hollywood have been able to master. As Katniss Everdeen she continues to be the anti-Bella Swan. She is insular and caustic to almost everyone she meets. She keeps her emotions close to the vest and she doesn’t define herself by the men in her life. She is an action hero in the line of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and I enjoy watching as her story progresses and am absolutely loving the way Lawrence plays all the beats of her journey.
I also liked that some of the supporting cast were given more to do in this film than the last especially Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket. In a role that could have easily been just an over the top caricature, Banks was able to let some of Effie’s humanity bleed through the garish make-up and over-the-top costumes.
Speaking of those costumes…you can really see the effects of the heightened budget for this film compared to the last. The costume designs were amazing and the sets were so much better. I really bought into the world building that was done in Catching Fire much more than in the first film.
And Jena Malone kicked all manner of ass as the rough around the edges Johanna Mason. She was so pitch perfect in the role that it felt almost like the character jumped directly off the page and onto the screen. She stole just about every scene she was in.
I really wanted to see more of the other winning Tributes especially Mags (because I really loved her in the book) and the less friendly Tributes like Gloss & Cashmere and Enobaria. A little more time spent in the arena showing the small battles in the Quarter Quell would have been a plus too.
The men in Katniss’ life continue to be totally underwhelming. Liam Hemsworth’s Gale continues to be a lunkheaded slab of beef while Josh Hutcherson’s miscasting as Peeta was even more evident in this film than the last. Hutcherson is shown more (and shares far more screen time with Lawrence) than Hemsworth and he barely registers as anything more than the annoying sidekick to a far more interesting actress/character. And neither of these guys has even a spark of romantic chemistry with Lawrence and all I kept thinking in her scenes with both of them was…why is she wasting her time?
Final Verdict: A marked improvement over the first film which is saying something because I really liked the original movie. Lawrence is more comfortable in the role of Katniss and the look of the film is vastly improved. With the introduction of a slew of new interesting characters and the beefing up of the roles of already established one, this franchise is on course to be one of the better young adult book to film transitions. If only the central romantic triangle weren’t so treacly and dull I would have hardly any complaints.