Movie Review: ‘Catching Fire’

The second installment of the “Hunger Games” series, “Catching Fire,” hit theaters the weekend of Nov. 22. As the futuristic plot continues, a new level of intensity emerges on screen.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the victor of the 74th Hunger Games, finds herself in the midst of a tense and delicate political climate in the wake of her victory.

Because she outsmarted the leaders of the sadistic and relentless Capitol, Katniss has somewhat unwittingly become a symbol of rebellion as the districts are in the beginnings of an ever-strengthening uprising. When her attempts at pacifying the president fail, she finds herself back in the arena, this time facing experienced and lethal victors of the other districts.

The plot of “Catching Fire” is a little too complicated to sum up in a few paragraphs. In fact, so much happens in the 2.5-hour film that some might find it a challenge to remember all that takes place. As expected, the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale continues, which only serves to further complicate matters.

However, the real focus of the film zeroes in on the unrest that is overtaking each character and the whole of Panem. The world they’ve known and despised is starting to slowly unravel as the anticipation deepens.

In many ways, the film stays true to the novel. Unfortunately, a few great moments in the book didn’t make it into the movie, but such is the trend of book-to-film adaptations.

Even with those elements missing, “Catching Fire” does a good job of capturing the heart and emotion of the series. Moviegoers will likely leave the theater frustrated and angry, not because the film didn’t measure up, but because it successfully made the audience feel what the characters felt on screen. The injustice of what the Capitol does and has done breeds a deep sense of rage and indignation despite the fact that the plot is fictional.

The movie’s biggest pitfalls came in the most intense moments. There were times when the action was so dramatic that it became almost comical. It’s never a good thing when the audience starts snickering during what was supposed to be an extremely serious moment.

This isn’t necessarily something that could have been remedied; it’s a very arduous task to take a 400-page novel and cram all the action into two and a half hours without overwhelming the audience. In light of this difficulty, the producers actually did a good job with the resources they had.

Lawrence’s acting in “Catching Fire” was excellent, a noticeable improvement from the first film. The others did a quality job as well. Some new characters – Finnick (Sam Claflin), Johanna (Jena Malone), Wiress (Amanda Plummer) and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) – were perfectly cast in accordance with the characters from the book. They were just as many readers had imagined them.

All in all, “Catching Fire” turned out to be a decent rendition of a complicated story, a story that is far from over. The film ends with a lead-in to the next movie, “Mockingjay – Part 1,” to be released in November 2014. For those who haven’t read the books, it’s going to be a long year waiting to find out what happens next.

Of course, there will be another year of waiting after that to see how the entire story comes to an end in “Mockingjay – Part 2,” but that’s okay. For now, fans of the series have the chance to see a fairly accurate rendition of the second novel and to catch the fire of fury that ultimately consumes the angst-ridden film.

Becca Kochsmeier is a senior journalism major and arts & entertainment editor for Cedars. She thinks Twitter is silly and would rather make endless Vines of her cat.

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