Tag Archives: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire | Review | Film

Stanly Tucci shines as CesarThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire posterSome things are more important than an amazing plot. Things like strong character arcs, engaging action set-pieces and a dramatic visual style can really lift a film – unfortunately Catching Fire has none of these things.

It seems a shame to begin on a negative when really, the film isn’t bad by any means, it just feels like what it is: a stepping stone to the next film in the series.

I’m assured by fans of the book series upon which the films are based that a lot of necessary ground work happens in book two to set the stage for book three Mocking Jay (which, incidentally, is being split into two films).

Catching a cold

Unfortunately, for those of us not in the loop, the trilogy/quadrilogy’s second watches very similarly to its first.

This time around, hero Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is back in her home of District 12, struggling to cope with the daily horror all around her as she lives in a special area for the privileged few who have won, or survived, the Hunger games.

Of course, Katniss’ act of defiance at the close of part one hasn’t gone unnoticed by the masses, and as she and Peeta (who actually impresses a little as a character now) embark on a tour of the districts, revolution is brewing.

President Snow (Donald Sutherland) approves a plan from head honcho of the games Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to turn Katniss into the very person she hates in the eyes of the public.

The arena is rather brutal this time around
The arena is rather brutal this time around

The plan involves a special hunger games, this time for previous winners, and from here the story continues much as before as the tributes begin to brutally kill each other in the games (a lot more off-screen this time, interestingly).

A crisis of identity

This is where the issue with Katniss as a character begins unfortunately. The consistency of her through the various trials she goes through inside and outside the games is all over the place.

One minute she is defiant within an inch of her life, resolute in her belief and nothing can stand in her way. The next she is in tears unsure of what to do or falling for one of the many obvious traps laid out in front of her.

The memories of what happened in the last games haunt her, clearly, but she seems to not have learnt anything from her last experience, making basic mistakes and costing people their lives as a result.

The supporting cast, admittedly, are fairly strong overall. Stanley Tucci is glorious fun as Cesar, while Woody Harrelson brings his role as the uneasy mentor forward from the previous film.

The tributes Katniss is up against are all victors of previous games, so no tiny kids
The tributes Katniss is up against are all victors of previous games, so no tiny kids

Lenny Kravitz is as unforgettable as ever and the casting of some of the other tributes raises an eyebrow, particularly Jeffrey “call me Felix Lighter” Wright as an overly mentally capable tribute with a penchant for electrocution.

Opportunity taps

The biggest disappointment from this film is that it could have been so much more if the drama was pushed up in any given scene, but you struggle to care about Katniss’ plight, save after one fairly uninspiring speech which ends in bloodshed (which could, also, have been much more arresting).

The film may stack up better as part of the complete saga, but for those going to the cinema for a memorable experience, it’s hard not to feel short changed.

Rating: 2/5

James Michael Parry

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Film | Review: The Hunger Games | This Is Entertainment

It’s not every day you watch a film about children fighting to the death, but in the dystopian future of The Hunger Games it’s as normal as watching Big Brother.

Following a rebellion 75 years before, the authorities decreed that each ‘district’ offer up a boy and a girl between 12 and 18 as a tribute to peace and prosperity to compete in a televised battle for survival known as The Hunger Games.

Our introduction into this troubled world is through the eyes of the hippy-named District 12 tribute Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who volunteers herself for the games to protect younger sister Prim. Katniss is immediately transported from a world of hardship and destitution, living on the breadline and hunting deer in the forest for food, to the brightly coloured land of plenty that is the central city: Capitol.

The contrast between the two settings is emphasised by the garish and fluorescent clothing worn by those in the Capitol, who immediately see Katniss and the other tributes as celebrities.

Those of you thinking the story sounds familiar, chances are you may have heard of or seen the 2000 film Battle Royale – a Japanese film which centres around a group of ninth grade students forced to fight to the death. While it was something of a television phenomenon in the world of Royale, it is the centre of everyone’s lives in The Hunger Games.

The comparisons to the Twilight saga are founded by the central love triangle, between Katniss, life-long friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) – who she is forced to leave behind – and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). There’s not much to this through this film though, with Katniss not showing any affection to Peeta despite his longing and no hint of more-than-friends in her introduction with Gale. Later Katniss plays up to the hints of love between her and Peeta for the watching public, but there is no real attraction.

In all Katniss comes off as driven and focused, showing very little emotion to anyone but her family. Lawrence is generally very stiff and has no natural chemistry with the rest of the adult cast, which is either a reflection on her acting prowess or her commitment to the character’s general lack of empathy. To compensate, one stand-out scene towards the finale floods the screen with emotion, and Lawrence earns her top-of-the-bill status.

The supporting cast vary. Hollywood middle-weight Woody Harrelson (Cheers, 2012, Zombieland) as Haymitch Abernathy, a previous winner of the games, initially makes a forgettable impression, but becomes more and more likeable. Mentor Cinna, played by none other than rock legend Lenny Kravitz, seems underused for what is such a crucial part of building Katniss’ confidence during training ahead of the games and the heavily made-up Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) is little more than a piercing voice.

The film is based on the first of a trilogy of books, and despite the faithful reproduction the background feels a little rushed with only a minute-long propaganda video (barely) explaining the reasoning for killing 23 children a year.

Director Gary Ross also helped shape the story as screenwriter, where he made his name with films like Big and Seabicuit, alongside original author Suzanne Collins. The care and attention of the pair shows through here, with the spirit of the source material translated on screen smoothly and all the doors left open to bring in an almost inevitable sequel.

There’s plenty that’s done well here, but the plot as a whole plays out predictably and with toned-down action scenes and ‘magic’ healing gel to fix stab wounds, some of the point of the story is lost. Despite the constant danger you rarely fear for the characters, but you do root for them, making it a story suited to its watershed-friendly certificate.

Rating: 3/5

James Michael Parry