By Joanna Mendoza and Jen T. Tuazon
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire had a tough act to follow in last year’s very well-reviewed Hunger Games. But this sequel — with its genius story, superb returning actors, perfectly cast newbies, chilling and suspenseful scenes, and elevated humor (hey, even sullen Peeta is smiling now!) — is even much better than its predecessor.
In Catching Fire, sequel to the blockbuster movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s best-selling novel The Hunger Games, reigning victors Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson; much, much improved) are once again thrown into the annual hunger games. As punishment for their part in the brewing uprising in some of Panem’s districts, the star-crossed lovers of District 12 are forced to compete with fellow victors for the Hunger Games’ 75th anniversary special — a move designed as a “reminder to the rebels that even the strongest among them cannot overcome the power of the Capitol.”
Catching fire is compelling from start to finish. Whether dwelling on the drama of the predicament of Panem and its impoverished districts, or on the suspense of yet another new and “improved” Hunger Games, or on the romance of the Peeta-Katniss-Gale love triangle, the movie keeps the viewers engaged and on the edge of their seats for two and a half hours (you won’t notice it, we swear!).
The special effects were impressive and the depiction of the futuristic Capitol was a delight, but this movie belongs to the actors. Thanks to the superb performances of the cast — both main and supporting, new and returning — this Hunger Games sequel has gone far and beyond what the first movie achieved. All the actors in Catching Fire did so well, it doesn’t matter how many their lines are or how long their screen time is, each actor just leaves a mark.
Special mention goes to Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket who just steals every scene, and Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman who was the perfect entertainer for the people as well as puppet for the Capitol. Lenny Kravitz playing Cinna was hard to imagine at first, but he has made this character so his own, now we can’t think of anyone else playing the part. Then there’s the great Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy who played the role of the tortured but good-hearted mentor to perfection. He also delivers one of the movie’s most memorable lines.
Most improved award goes to Hutcherson whose performance in this movie will leave you rooting for Team Peeta.
And of course the girl on fire herself: Lawrence was just incredible. This Katniss will break your heart, make you laugh, burn you in anger, and move you to tears within a span of a minute. It was like she had “Oscar” written all over her forehead. The Hunger Games franchise definitely hit the jackpot with this casting.
Finally, our favorite of favorites: the Three-Fingered Salute. This was the only thing that moved us in the first Hunger Games movie (when Katniss made the salute after fellow tribute, ally, and friend Rue died). They did it several times in Catching Fire and it just made us cry EVERY TIME.
Watch the trailer:
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, a Lionsgate picture distributed locally by Pioneer Films, opens in Philippine cinemas today. Advance happy weekend! (All photos are courtesy of Lionsgate)