When the first “Hunger Games” film launched in March 2012, it was a massive success on all levels. Crowds loved it, critics adored it and the box office was unreal, with the film bringing in over $400 million in the U.S. alone.
Flash-forward to a year-and-a-half later, and the second entry in the series, “Catching Fire,” has arrived. In that time, a new directior, Francis Lawrence, came on the scene, and the girl (Jennifer Lawrence) who played the girl on fire (Katniss Everdeen) has become a mega-star with an Oscar now in her possession.
Do either one of these factors make the new installment feel different? Actually no, not at all. “Catching Fire” shines in its consistency with the first film, with the same visual style and intensity in performance carrying over. Perhaps the fear for survival feels a tad diluted compared to the first go-around, but its replacement is the intrigue of a power struggle between rich and poor.
The cast is once again mostly played to perfection, with Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson mixing well with the newcomers. Among the fresh blood, Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Finnick (Sam Clafin) provide the most fun, but you’ll be surprised at how much you may find yourself engaged with the other supporting stars.
At the end of the day, this is Lawrence’s show, and she does her best to bring some sophistication to the mayhem. Does “Catching Fire” suffer middle-child-syndrome? A tad. It’s only logical we’d be more interested in how things will turn out than meandering through another Hunger Games between former victors.
Lucky for us, the team behind this one doesn’t picture it as meandering, and for the most part, you’ll find yourself wrapped up in the thrills Suzanne Collins’ world supplies.
Whether or not it’s as good as the first film is really a matter of personal preference. I don’t think it excels over the initial outing, but it comes pretty close. Regardless of what comparisons you want to make, “Catching Fire” is a spectacular experience for the eyes, ears and mind. The only bad part is waiting around for the next chapter.