Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, Woody Harrellson (Rated M – 146 min)
As the bubbly Effie Trinket says, chins up, smiles on. Happy Hunger Games indeed.
Most sequels don’t live up to potential but the second instalment to the ardent saga, Catching Fire is a knockout with simmering drama working towards a breathless action finale. Production design is spectacular, costumes are all unique and flawless, however it is a distinguished cast that elevate this all round impressive adventure.
Darker than the first film, the thrills unfold with frightening realism, extended silences to booming sound effects even play a part. Hollywood it-girl, Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence reprises her all conquering role as archery expert Katniss Everdeen. Taking the heat after defying the rules to win her first Hunger Games tournament with friend Peeta, their actions raise the hopes of a rebellion amongst the outside districts.
Deviously condescending President Snow (an enigmatic Donald Sutherland) is unwilling to look foolish and wants Katniss gone. He drums up an exclusive Hunger Games contest involving the past 22 winners with recent victors Peeta and Katniss taking part. Against the more experienced warriors, the newcomers are under pressure and against harsh odds to survive in circumstances they could never imagine. I thought the original was a junior version of The Running man, an Arnold Schwatzenegger classic, but the wrath of fighting in this Hunger Games arena is ramped up a few notches for the sequel.
Emotional turmoil is no stretch for the outstanding Jennifer Lawrence. Katniss balances developing relationships, family, friends and advice from mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) with pure heart and anguish to win at all costs. Lighter moments of humour in the mix separates political themed social issues, a diverse soundtrack includes Australian songstress Sia, Coldplay and folk veteran Patti Smith.
Brilliant Jenna Malone (Donnie Darko) introduced briefly as new foul mouthed character, Johanna, will be seen more in Mockingjay Part 1. Be warned of upcoming parodies due soon, The Hungover Games. The Starving Games. Yes they are real.
Shane A. Bassett