The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is another gripping episode from the popular and acclaimed young adult fiction trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Just like The Hunger Games, it’s a well-paced, well-acted and intelligent sci-fi adventure fable. And it’s yet another showcase role for Jennifer Lawrence.
To review, the story is set in the future, where several generations after a rebellion, an authoritarian government plucks teenagers from the formerly rebellious provinces to fight to the death in a forest. It’s all broadcast on reality TV for the entertainment of the masses. Children killing children – it doesn’t get much harsher than that.
This time, the malevolent tyrant picks his gladiators from the winners (i.e., survivors) of the past Games. Because they have survived by killing off the other children, they could constitute their own PTSD support group; they range from emotionally fragile to raging bonkers. This adds a particularly flavorful set of roles, acted especially deliciously by Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer and Jena Malone.
The main purpose of a second act is to tee up the third, and Catching Fire is very successful, with the help of a new character played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Francis Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer) does a fine job directing his first Hunger Games movie – and he’s set to direct the final chapter in the trilogy (which will actually be two movies - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and – Part 2).
[Gary Ross, the director of the original The Hunger Games, is in pre-production on two new Jennifer Lawrence movies - Burial Rites from the Hannah Kent novel and Steinbeck's East of Eden (where Lawrence's role is the one played by Julie Harris in the 1955 Elia Kazan/James Dean version).]
But, at the end of the day, it’s all about Jennifer Lawrence, who must carry the movie as the plays the determined and resourceful Appalachian heroine. She’s an amazing screen presence, capable of believably portraying both panic attacks and action hero sequences. She’s worth the price of admission all by herself.
The source material may be aimed at tweens, but I haven’t met an adult yet who hasn’t enjoyed and been impressed with The Hunger Games or The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. I’ll probably go see Catching Fire again (this time with The Wife), and I’m looking forward to Mockingjay.