Catch the fire, and burning with desire

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            The familiar high-pitched tones ring through the air, as the sound of the mocking jay fills the theater.   At least, that is what I heard all those months ago when the teaser first rang through an excited crowd.  Now, the big day has finally arrived, and I got to go to a “midnight” premier to welcome in the titan this film is sure to be.  That’s right folks, my review is on the latest visual work of Suzanne Collins’ popular series: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire.

Jennifer Lawrence took the world by storm with her portrayal of teenage, hard-edged Katniss Everdeen, who fought her way to victory in the last Hunger Games.  Two years later, Lawrence comes back in full force, grabbing the part she played once more and bringing more fire to an already heated character.  Those who have read the books know of the struggles Ms. Everdeen is forced to face, and the emotional torment she goes through.  In my opinion, Lawrence has succeeded once again in portraying her epic roles, and unleashing every single emotion to a brilliant level in every scene.  Looking around the theater, I caught many fellow audience members beaming with pride at the sight of Katniss defying the jaws of despair that seem to surround her as the Capital play their cruel games.

Yet, Lawrence isn’t the only cast member to shine in this film.  Josh Hutcherson returns to swoon the ladies with his poetic words and innocence that makes heart melts.  Peeta’s poetic words and perfect timing are back in full swing, only this time without the pathetic and whiney atmosphere that Luke Skywalker had in the original Star Wars.  Similar to his co-star, Hutcherson has matured into his role, delivering the lines with the needed emphasis to drive the suspense, drama and cheesy love of the tragic romance.  Peeta also has a few more moves in his arsenal, and Hutcherson does a decent job delivering the over-exaggerated choreographed swings at the imaginary animals that swarm around him.

The other actors step back into their roles, and the new contestants were well casted and sculpted to mirror the images Collins described in her books.  Yet there isn’t enough space in this review to describe everyone else, so trust me in saying the rest of the acting is good, though many parts are limited.

Let’s move on to the romance in the book, as most people going to see this movie are there for the tragedy that is the Hunger Games.  Truth be told, it’s even better than the previous installment.  As the world continues to spiral into chaos, the emotions ramp up as the combination of cinematography and sound come together in a spectacle that had the audience maintaining hope for the future of Panem’s citizens.  While the character development in the movie pales in comparison to the books, the repetitive details of their past have been edited out allowing more romance and action to fill the screen.  Despite the loss of character detail, many fans of the books still enjoyed the interaction between Katniss and Peeta, captivated by the promise of true love winning over death.

This reviewer though is not about love when it comes to the Hunger games, nor the cute actors and actresses, but more so the action and ability to bring life to Panem.  Catching Fire improved on both in my opinion, as the development team’s special effects were unleashed in a dazzling display of high definition color and sound.  The exotic outfits of the costumed capital dwellers, the elaborate world of high quality parties merging with the antique material of wood and stone, and the imaginative designs of Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) all agreed with the details my imagination pictured from the book.  Even the arena impressed me, as Collins artificial worlds were followed almost to the letter, the unimportant details and drastic changes to the mutations being left out  in the interest of time and quality.  While fans of the books will know what is coming a mile ahead, new audience members will be on suspense as they watch the threats unfold, challenging our characters to fight all odds.

Action wise the movie is also 100 times better.  Whether it be in the training arena, or battling out in the jungle, Katniss and the crew have picked up some new moves in the last two years of filming.  Many will be enthralled by the suspense of seeing Katniss and her team defy the Capital, in particular watching the rugged, arrogant Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) wield his trident against both creature and human and face the dangers at hand.  Combined with a soundtrack that gets the blood pumping, fans will surely be gripping their armrests or loved ones as the bloodbath continues to unfold.  Despite the improvement though, many scenes are over before they even started, much like Collins did in her book.  The action is sacrificed to allow for more love and body ogling something I grow tired of.  I understand that it’s to show the warriors are not animals, but surely a little more action wouldn’t kill them.  Most will be just fine with what the crew has cooked up for you, so let’s continue on.

Like always though, no movie is perfect and Catching Fire has a few flaws for me.  The first has to be with how well they stuck to the book.  While I think sticking to the well thought out story is a good choice, movies are about taking some creative liberty to fill in the gaps left by the author.  Collins’ book provided some ample opportunity for the movie to add a little more to the arena, as well develop some future events for the next movies to come.  Yet, the group stuck to the hastened plot of the book, with the exception of eliminating some of the extremely boring detail that had me banging my head against the wall.  Most will be happy for this movie, but if they choose this route for the third book of the trilogy, I’m going to be bored out of my skull.  Another weakness is that all the extra characters in the movie, from contestants to supporting characters, take a huge back seat to Katniss again.  I know, the story is about Katniss, but Collins created some nasty villains that deserve a little more time on the screen.   While not a weakness for me, something else that might disappoint fans is that heartthrob Gale (Liam Hemsworth) also is a bit lacking in this tale.  A few of the fans in love with the character, verbally expressed their frustration with the little they got to seem, but whether that’s due to actual acting or because they think he is hot I don’t know.

Overall, Catching Fire is a much better movie than its predecessor in pace, action, and acting.  Although 2.5 hours long, you will not feel it in this movie, as you become captivated by the amazing details the crew designed.  Fans of the book, as well as Jennifer Lawrence groupies, will not be disappointed with what they have in store.  However don’t expect to latch on to the characters of the movie as much as you did the book, nor expect the ambiguous details to be any clearer due to how close they followed the story.  So what are my scores for Catching Fire?  See below:

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi:  8.5

Movie Overall:  8

So gear up, dress up, and head out my friends for the 75th annual Hunger Games!!!!!!  This is Robbie K signing off until next time.