The second film chapter of Suzanne Collins’ incredibly popular young adult novels features a new director (Francis Lawrence of I Am Legend) and a handful of new characters, but a premise that is relatively similar to the first film. Our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, is thrown straight back into the fire after her victory in the first Hunger Games, and she must once again return to the arena and battle her peers to the death. But this time, she’s older, wiser and fuelled by rage and a desire to make a difference.
The New Daily says: As a book to film adaptation, Catching Fire is excellent. It rewards loyal readers by expertly translating Collins’ elaborate, post-apocalyptic imageries to the big screen and, while those who haven’t read the book will be left confused and frustrated by the abrupt ending, fans of the book will feel suitably smug. As a standalone film, Catching Fire does its best to maintain momentum, a challenge for a plot which continually introduces characters with names and backgrounds as complex as the social structure they seek to undermine.
As in the first movie, the majority of the humor and gravitas rides on the coattails of Jennifer Lawrence’s spunky Katniss, with honorable mentions going to a hard-not-to-love Josh Hutcherson as Peeta and human one-liner Woody Harrelson as Haymitch. Newcomer Jena Malone comes close to matching the energy of Lawrence in her role as sassy Johanna Mason and flawless special effects ease the film over any rough patches. The formula is reminiscent of the first movie, sure, but it’s a formula that works.
For a highly anticipated production with much ground to cover, you can forgive Catching Fire for its propensity to skim over character development and plot twists in favor of providing more tantalizing action scenes and shots of Jennifer Lawrence expressing emotion. At the end of the day, Francis Lawrence has created a veritable crowd-pleaser and you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who isn’t on the edge of his or her seat throughout.
Entertainment Weekly says: “Katniss does have plenty of pluck, and in the action-packed second half of the book, she again shows appealing mettle. The author describes her wearing a series of Cher-worthy costumes in which she confronts poisonous mists, deranged monkeys, and a flock of ”candy pink” birds equipped with long beaks used to skewer human necks. Great stuff, this. Unfortunately, such startling apparitions too quickly appear and disappear, baubles randomly affixed to a story that’s been stretched to gossamer thinness.”
The Telegraph says: “It’s a critic’s instinct to auto-praise any blockbuster that tries to do something different, but Catching Fire is so committed to carrying on the fine work started by its predecessor that the applause flows utterly naturally.”
The Hollywood Reporter says: “This is a safe, serviceable, carefully crafted action drama in which the subversive seeds planted in the first story take welcome root. As before, Jennifer Lawrence is the superb center of it all and the massive success of this Lionsgate release is as certain as the turning of the Earth.”
Rolling Stone says: “Forgive the rough patches and an ending as frustratingly abrupt as the book’s. Pop-culture escapism can be thrilling when dished out by experts. Katniss is a character worth a handful of sequels. And Lawrence lights up the screen. You’ll follow her anywhere.”
The Guardian says: “The reprise of the Games introduces new adversaries (and some allies) but has exactly the same dynamic as in the first movie; Katniss must keep both herself and the ever-so bumbling Peeta alive. It’s all a bit familiar…You can feel the franchise dynamic chugging beneath, with the result that Catching Fire is not quite a full course, more of an amuse bouche, making its mammoth audience hungry for future, meatier instalments.”
Kids? While Suzanne Collins’ books are aimed at young adults, be cautious of heavier themes and occasional violence in the films. We recommended 13 and up.
Watch it: If you’re a fan of the franchise. Even more so if you have read the books.