“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” review

A bit of friendly advice: It may not be a good idea to make symbolic gestures in the air in the face of an oppressive government as it may get you shot.

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is the second film based off of the bestselling “Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The series revolves around Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a young woman living in the District 12 of the totalitarian Panem. After beating the districts into submission many years ago, the Capitol imposed an annual Hunger Games, requiring each district to submit two citizens aged 12 to 18 to a deathmatch held in the Capitol. The citizens of the Capitol relish these events by broadcasting them throughout the dystopian country. After volunteering to fight instead of her younger sister, Katniss was whisked off to the Capitol with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the other tribute from District 12. They garnered the public’s support for them by acting madly in love and, for the first time ever, two people were able to simultaneously win the Hunger Games. Katniss’ perseverance throughout the ordeal inspired thousands across the districts, potentially sowing the seeds of a shift in social structure.

“Catching Fire” begins at this point, with Katniss back in her home of District 12. It is a brief homecoming though, as the victors, together with their alcoholic mentor, are required to go on a victory tour throughout the districts ending in the Capitol. Katniss is personally informed by President Snow (Donald Southerland), the ruler of Panem, that the ulterior motive of this tour is to further convince citizens that Katniss’ desperate actions in the Hunger Games were out of love, not of defiance to the Capitol. Failing to do so, he says, is not an option.

President Snow wanted Katniss eliminated in the Hunger Games, but the new Gamemaker (Philip Seymour Hoffman) advises that she should be “in the right way, in the right time.” The 75th Hunger Games are different in that tributes are only chosen from existing victors. Once again, Katniss and Peeta find themselves in the Capitol, but after this, things will never be the same.

I enjoyed “The Hunger Games” for bringing the complex and imaginative world Suzanne Collins created to life. Although it had a new director, “Catching Fire” aesthetically follows suit. After the first scene of the film, the gritty districts are replaced by some impressive shots. The action is well-done and is occasionally punctuated with witty dialogue delivered by the capable cast. Fans prone to motion sickness will be relieved to hear that the infamous shaky action shots in the first film no longer appear in Catching Fire. Much criticism of “The Hunger Games” still applies in “Catching Fire,” such as rushed pacing and occasionally wooden acting. Although I love Jennifer Lawrence (who doesn’t?), her supposed agonized screaming came off as forced and will undoubtedly be autotuned across the Internet when the movie hits shelves.  There are several conveniences throughout the film, but conveniences alone do not ruin a film’s enjoyability (looking at you, “The Dark Knight Rises”).

Overall, “Catching Fire” is an  entertaining movie, neither outstanding nor terrible. Head out to the theater if you are a fan of the franchise, but  otherwise, it can wait until its inevitable Netflix release.