The second of the three books by Suzanne Collins comes breathtakingly to life in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The film starts off exactly where the first part left off with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) back in District 12 and still haunted by her experiences in the Hunger Games. Soon she is pulled off from her peaceful existence to parade in front of the Capitol and it’s ever propaganda hungry citizen. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is also not spared from the torture as he is still the man-part of a much talked about romance in the Hunger Games. There is however one little problem for the Capitol and its leadership. The citizen of the other districts do not look at Peeta and Katniss’ romance in all its likelihood which in turns also helps to fuel a rebellion which is the biggest fear of President Snow(Donald Sutherland). Katniss is threatened to do what it takes to make the romance look real if she desires the existence of her near and dear ones. With the quarter Quell in the 75th Hunger Games and Katniss pitted once again with Peeta against the other districts, The Games not only fuel a nation’s capital and all its districts but also becomes the necessary thurst to propel the wagon of rebellion on an oppressive state.
If the first installment of the Hunger Games was good, the sequel is brilliant. Drawing inspiration from Greek mythology, the Gladiators, Battle Royale and then cooking them all up into one tasty broth is exactly what Suzanne Collins had achieved with the Hunger games trilogy and this film only serves up the same dose of what we got in the first installment but with renewed vigor. Catching Fire has our protagonists age a bit to turn into a man and woman from the young adults that they were in the first installment. The narrative is grittier and much more serious with the political dynamics adding an added dimension to the proceedings. The effects of the poisoned berries in the first installment has mammoth effects on this installment as it is taken as the focal point on which the whole concept of reparcations and end of subjugation gets an apex point.
While the first part was only about how Katniss would survive the Hunger Games, Catching Fire is more about how Katniss and her acts defying the Capitol will lead the districts to stand up in rebellion once gain. There are some scenes which wonderfully convey the message. The scene where she hangs a dummy by the neck in front of the game maker to show her angst at Seneca Crane, the Game maker from the first installment, the scene where she has the chance to let fly an arrow towards another player but seethes her bow in time, her outburst at the end add up to compound the effect of the narrative and increase the power of the oh! so pretty visuals.
Jennifer Lawrence is top notch as Katniss. I can’t think of anyone else playing that character and looking the part and acting it as well she achieves. Donald Sutherland as the foxy president Snow looks sinister and acts the part too. Josh Hutcherson now begins to take more of the center stage and also gets to enjoy Katniss’ love and affection a little more. Philip Seymour Hoffman as the new chief Game maker has a significant role which made promises of gaining much more importance in the next installments. So is the character of Liam Hemsworth.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire scores points not only on the seriousness quotient and the fact that the narrative takes itself seriously but also has some genuine thrills which takes it forward leaps and bounds. Having said that the film still does have its trademark mannerism and subtle one liners which harp away at those comic chords but never gets out of control. The action is in bits and pieces and yet is fully satisfying. The visual effects are gorgeous. The film starts off in the normal cinematic aspect ratio but with the start of the Hunger Games, the aspect ratio changes to 16:9 giving you the real IMAX experience. The visual quality is crisp and every scene is thought after with penchant.
Overall, this installment has everything going in its favor. For the readers of the book, it might just be a trifle underwhelming as it is simply impossible to pack in as much details as the pages of a book can hold. But from the cinematic prospective, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a huge winner.