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MikePA's Movie Reviews (137)

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire 
Review: The Hunger Games Catching Fire
3/4 stars

The major sin of 2012's The Hunger Games (directed by Gary Ross) was that it never had a chance to truly grab the viewer and keep them gripped as our characters were facing an essentially life or death situation. It didn't take its time to develop the setting or characterizations. Katniss was a badass, sure, but that was really it. It lacked the emotional intensity that it truly needed, and when it came times for the Hunger Games, that feeling of uneasiness was never present. Plus, that shaky-cam was just dreadful. Now, in Francis Lawrence's much-better sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, everything is executed and delivered as an exact opposite of the first. This film grabs you immediately. It takes its time to develop the plot and the characters and the problems they face. Katniss feels much more grounded and vulnerable this time around. The action is well-filmed and edited, this time with killer monkeys!

I liked Catching Fire more as a film because everything feels much more detailed in terms of plot and social commentary. It's absorbing and engrossing, containing much to appreciate and be riveted by. Francis Lawrence's direction is well worth noting, as he takes a subtle and occasionally somber approach to the material, yet providing just enough dread and uneasiness that's appropriate for the story. I found many of the film's most dramatic moments to be very compelling, mostly due to Francis Lawrence's approach to the sequence and his actors' direction. Also because, as said, everything feels much more fleshed out and developed. Even the film's weakest element, which is the romantic situation between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, is effectively moving. Unlike the first film, your heart is going to race when the characters are being elevated up into the arena.

Of course, Jennifer Lawrence is absolutely incredibly amazingly amazing as Katniss. As said, what Lawrence (Jennifer, not Francis) gives Katniss this time around feels so much more relatable and vulnerable, while at the same time sustaining her badass nature that made her so awesome in the first film. In the heavier moments, J-La knocks it out of the park. I've never been the biggest fan of Josh Hutcherson, and here he doesn't really change that. Same goes for Liam Hemsworth. Woody Harrelson's character is given a lot of heaviness to weigh his performance on, which is good because he's given the opportunity to showcase his serious skill. He certainly showcases the hell out of it. Elizabeth Banks and Stanly Tucci are pretty good as two of the most colorful characters (literally, and sometimes figuratively) I've seen all year. Phillip Seymour Hoffman presents a terrific new villain in a complex and sometimes scary performance that'll have you confused, provoked, and not very comfortably at ease.

The film looks fantastic. It's wonderfully shot, the effects are really good, and costumes and production design are vibrant and enriched with detail. You can tell that director Francis Lawrence had more money in his pocket than Gary Ross did. The action (shaky-cam free) to be had here is entertaining and visceral, and a lot of the time edge-of-your-seat thrilling. But Lawrence establishes this strange tone throughout the entire duration of the games, in the sense that there's something fishy going on. And yes, something fishy is going on, and it's AWESOME, and Mockingjay Part 1 & 2 is going to be AWESOME.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire exceeds the original in every way. The action is much more thrilling and nicely shot. The story and characterizations are engrossing and provide much detail to the corrupt society that they're surrounded by. The ending is pretty awesome. It's a compelling entry in this bettering film series, and makes for a satisfying trip to the movies.

3/4


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