Friday, November 22, 2013


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire official site It has been typical that a sequel from an action film franchise is more a tool to generate revenue from its fans than a movie to tell a compelling story. But director Francis Lawrence effectively changes that perception with his exhilarating "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (USA 2013 | 146 min.), the second installment based on Suzanne Collins's young adult novel trilogy. The film handsomely delivers exciting entertainment with captivating storytelling, fine performances by a terrific ensemble cast, and a striking fashion showcase.

The film is set in a future nation called Panem in an era of post civilization. Panem's glamorous Capital controls 12 enslaved districts. Each year, a teenager boy and a teenager girl from each district are sent to the Capital to compete in the Hunger Games in which only one survivor as the winner by killing all others. With a twist in the previous installment "The Hunger Games," both fierce Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and sensitive Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) from District 12 became the winners of the 74th Hunger Games.

After winning the game, Katniss returns back to District 12 and reunites with her childhood friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and her family. However, Katniss and Peeta must go around the districts on a Victor's Tour, along with their alcoholic mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), flamboyant public relation handler Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), and brilliant stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz).

Monitoring their tour closely, Snow (Donald Sutherland), the powerful President of Panem, senses the unrest from many Districts inspired by the action of Katniss during the 74th Hunger Games. He certainly cannot tolerate any rebellion tendency under his brutal rule.

To take action, President Snow hires a calculating gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to mastermind the 75th Annual Hunger Games—The Quarter Quell. In a grand and magnificent style like an opening ceremony at an Olympic game, hosted by a sensational host Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), Snow announces that "the tributes are to be reaped from the existing pool of victors" from each district.

Without a choice, Katniss and Peeta are back to the barbaric game again. Physically and psychologically, they must fight for survival against other tributes as well as their real enemy—President Snow.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Official Site

What an engaging, brutal, and thrilling game the film displays!

Director Francis Lawrence is brilliant for not treating the material solely as another action sequel. In the first half of the film, he takes time to develop a few compelling characters. He allows the audience get to know these tributes as human beings with distinct personalities. Then in the second half of the film, they are mercilessly herded into a killing ground for entertainment, like the slaves at the Colosseum in Rome.

The story grippingly unfolds as if the characters are playing a chess game, only with their lives. They predict what their opponents' next move might be and take actions accordingly. Despite the brutality, the chess game is terrifically played out while spectators are glued to the chess board throughout the battle. Even the action sequences are carefully crafted as part of the game instead of just a showoff about the computer generated imagery.

The film is also remarkably convincing despite its sci-fi setting. It doesn't provide any special power to any of these characters. That makes them sympathetic and believable. The stunning game set seems possible to make with today's technology (except the television sets which might be secretly developed in some high-tech company at this very moment).

With this excellent installment, director Francis Lawrence firmly establishes his standing among the fans of the Hunger Games franchise, and the film's noticeable achievements in many technical aspects will surely be recognized in the upcoming award season. While the final credit rolling on the IMAX screen, I realize that I am looking forward to director Francis Lawrence's next installment already. A game well played indeed.

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," a Lionsgate release, opens on Friday, November 22, 2013.

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