I enjoyed the first movie in the Hunger Games franchise a lot. It was a good, engaging, clever teenage story about a girl doing her best to survive in a world where the odds were certainly not in her favour. I think it’s a film that’s went up in people’s estimation since it was released.
Hunger Games: Catching Fire sees Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) try and cope with life having won The Hunger Games in the first film. Unfortunately for her, not much has changed. Although she’s become a hero to loads of people across the twelve Districts, and a figurehead for rebellion, she has lost all her personal freedom. “Victors’ Village” being little more than a glorified prison for her and fellow winner, Peeta.
The rest of the film sees the two keep up the charade of love for the benefit of President Snow, who has made it all too clear what the consequences will be if either step out of line and ignite a rebellion.
The main problem with Catching Fire is that while most of the film is enjoyable at the time, it falls into a lot of the traps that Scream 2 mentions in its pastiche of what a sequel will be. The plot differs little to the original, but the stakes are seemingly higher, the deaths are more exciting, and Katniss’ foes within the games are even tougher than before.
Thankfully the world feels just as real, and the characters are so well realised that the film is not a complete failure. It’s just that if you actually explain the plot to someone, they might point out it’s as imaginative an idea for a sequel as Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Another interesting parallel is that you spend both those films waiting for the awesome final act were Katniss/Kevin finally kicks butt inside the Hunger Games/Home.
Of course there are those that will love both Lost in New York and Catching Fire, I’m just saying if you’re looking for something imaginative, this is not the place to come.
If there’s anything else to be said for the film, it’s that it saves it’s strongest scene for last. Like The Empire Strikes Back, it ends on a cliff hanger designed to make us book our tickets for the next film as soon as we leave the theatre.
Perhaps that’s an overly cynical look at it, but what disappointed me most about these scenes were that the ideas behind them were not evident enough through out the film to make it more interesting, and as such where the film is left to go is into waters already well chartered in the original film.
So Hunger Games: Catching Fire is entertaining enough at the time, but a rematch of the original would give you much the same experience as watching a film which fails to truly ignite.