Hollywood and the Academy’s charming lovechild Jennifer Lawrence has done it again with “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” flourishing her fancy feathers aflame for a box office explosion. With a versatile supporting cast including the likes of Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who shine in their own brilliant starlight alongside our fearless heroine, “Catching Fire” needs no staged arson to ignite.
The long anticipated sequel to the 2012 adaptation of the popular Suzanne Collins novels has, so far, dazzled viewers with love triangles, intense suspense, and the occasional spark-plug comment. Those who followed the book series diligently should be impressed with the accuracy while those who did not can enjoy the subtle distance. “Catching Fire” picks up right where “The Hunger Games” left off, with Katniss Everdeen’s (Lawerence) return to District 12, where she assumes her role of victor alongside her loyal but dubious partner Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). After sparking an unintentional rebellion with her empathy and choice of ultimate sacrifice, Katniss becomes torn between an unlikely chance to bring the Capital burning to the ground, which would result in the complete eradication of her family and friends, and dodging a potential threat against her life. Needless to say, she’s thrown back into the Games during the third ever Quarter Quell, a special version of the last-man-standing showdown held every twenty-five years in the great authoritarian state of Panem.
Set in an arena containing poisonous mists, jabberjays that mock voices geared to drive the listener insane, and vicious apes (let alone the other skillfully trained survivors), the game becomes a literal race against the clock in Katniss’s attempts to survive with the help of her allies. As far as runtime is concerned, you definitely get your money’s worth, as the movie itself times in at about two and a half hours. But you also don’t get robbed of your time. “Catching Fire” aims to give the experience designed for the contenders of the games: fearful, distrustful, and full of panic. But it’s also heartfelt and endearing; a combination that makes for a genuine blockbuster.
Not only does “Catching Fire” display visual delights in costumes and atmospheric juxtapositions, it’s also lush with substance pulled directly from the book simply dolled up with movie magic, presenting a fitting image for a very imaginative series. The scenes that slightly drag on a bit don’t distract from the movie’s overall tempo, pacing it dramatically enough while including enough action and ferocity to constitute a kick-ass feel. The caliber of acting, with the exception of a couple soft spots (Liam Hemsworth, I’m looking through you), is on par with most of the other blockbusters that rely more on thrill than dramatization.
Overall, Catching Fire has been a thunderous success at the box office, which considering when they started promoting the film isn’t much of a surprise. Those who see it for the quality of entertainment that it is will thoroughly enjoy the effort put into framing the story that has captured, and will continue to, audiences around the world.