Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hunger Games: Catching Fire

With the highly popular Harry Potter fantasy film series well behind us and the latest incarnation of Lord of the Rings not living up to its notably high expectations, there’s definitely an opportunity for a fantasy saga to soak in some of the unoccupied Hollywood limelight.

Whilst the first film in the intriguing Hunger Games saga might not have convinced all fantasy geeks of its splendour, the second instalment, Catching Fire confidently cements the series’ reputation as the current leading fantasy adventure franchise. It’s an improvement on its predecessor in all ways possible, proving once again what a dramatic difference a swap in the director chairs can have on a film franchise.

To be honest, I was probably a bit hard on the first Hunger Games movie, mostly because the strong teen romance thread reminded me too much of the aggravating and melodramatic Twilight series. To the benefit of the second film though, the plot is much less concerned with themes of love, and rather opts to delve deeper in the series’ far darker and consequently more intriguing motives.
“The result is a highly enthralling fantasy film that works on a diverse number of levels of storytelling.”
The result is a highly enthralling fantasy film that works on a diverse number of levels of storytelling. Politics are a big part of the fantasy backdrop of this world and thanks partly to stunning performances by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Donald Sutherland, results in an interesting look at the power of propaganda and the darker side of public relations. The film’s exploration of class inequalities also gets more attention this time around and will leave you with some powerful food for thought. However, the human race’s increasingly alarming obsession with outrageous spectacle is once again at the forefront of affairs here but is explored in greater and more terrifying detail this time around.

Don’t however let all the heavy subject matter fool you into thinking that you’re not going to experience any heart pounding action. Whilst the first part of the film is distinctly quiet and dialogue orientated, the second part serves for a satisfying sense of balance thanks to outstanding action scenes. Luckily, these benefit from the same sense of dread and urgency established in the first Hunger Games movie.

Director Francis Lawrence has brought his A-game to the table, as the pacing here is more or less spot-on throughout the film’s lengthy 2-and-a-half-hour runtime. The dialogue heavy scenes are always thought provoking and enthralling, whilst the action sequences are captivating and unpredictable.  Lead actress, Jennifer Lawrence’s effortless shift between dramatic actor and action star is praiseworthy, easily overshadowing some of the weaker cast performances from Elizabeth Banks and Josh Hutcherson.
“The dialogue heavy scenes are always thought provoking and enthralling, whilst the action sequences are captivating and unpredictable.”
Catching Fire is truly a triumph for all involved, accomplishing the rare feat of simultaneously being an intriguing character study as well as an enthralling action/adventure film. What makes it unforgettable though is that it does all of this whilst delivering powerful and highly relevant social commentary.

These kids have much more to worry about than any young adult should...

Highlight: The announcement of a shocking change to the annual Hunger Games tournament breaks the film’s delicate web of hope in a matter of moments, leading the film’s plot in an intriguingly unpredicted direction.