The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (M)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/11/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 146 mins

The hugely entertaining second instalment in The Hunger Games series is leaner and meaner than the first film, thanks to a strong script, pacey, focussed direction and terrific performances from a superb ensemble cast.

What's it all about?
Directed by Francis Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the second of four planned films based on The Hunger Games trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins. Having jointly won The Hunger Games by standing up to the system, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are paraded around the twelve districts, but it quickly becomes apparent that they have become symbols of resistance, with their every appearance greeted with the three-fingered salute of solidarity and stirrings of civil unrest everywhere they go.

Sensing revolution in the air, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and new games designer Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) cook up the mother of all distractions, a Hunger Games consisting entirely of former champions, during which they plan to kill Katniss. With Katniss and Peeta both plunged back into the Arena, they make alliances with a number of fellow competitors: handsome Finnick (Sam Claflin), feisty Johanna (Jena Malone), tech expert Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) and seemingly disturbed Wiress (Amanda Plummer). But can any of them be trusted?

The Good
Lawrence is pretty much perfect as Katniss and the script does a decent job of presenting events from her point of view, allowing the film to pull off a couple of key surprises later on. Hutcherson is equally good as Peeta (their chemistry has ratcheted up a notch too) and there's superb support from newcomers Clafin, Malone and Wright, alongside colourful turns from returnees Woody Harrelson (as Katniss' mentor Haymitch), Elizabeth Banks (as Effie Trinket), Lenny Kravitz (a brief but effective appearance as stylist Cinna), and a splendidly sinister Sutherland.

The script has a much tighter focus this time around, managing to convincingly present Katniss being torn between love interests Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) without overdoing it, and also tapping into a number of resonant, provocative issues such as government control of the population, surveillance, the role of reality TV in society and so on.

The Great
Director Francis Lawrence delivers a number of impressive action sequences and the CGI work on the creatures (CGI Killer Monkeys as opposed to the first film's CGI Mutts) is a lot more accomplished this time round; there's also a certain amount of tension involved in each sequence (especially if you haven't read the book), as you're never quite sure who to trust. On top of that, the production design work is superb, particularly in the spectacular costumes Cinna designs for Katniss.

Worth seeing?
Hunger Games: Catching Fire is an enjoyable, intelligent and superbly acted sci-fi blockbuster that delivers genuine thrills and leaves you hungry for the next installment. Recommended.

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (M)
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Content updated: 17/10/2019 12:21

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