‘Catching Fire’ lives up to hype, connects with audience

By: Scott Peterson – Staff Writer

Sequels to successful movies can often be scary for loyal fans, because the first movie creates a large shadow. A sequel can find it hard to connect with the audience again, which can lead to audience disappointment. This is not the case with “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” This blockbuster film has reached a status of equal to if not better than the first.

“Catching Fire” begins after the first movie ends. This time around Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), has won the Hunger Games, but the problem now is that she is stuck in the middle of a love triangle with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). As the unintentional symbol of hope for people oppressed by the Capital, there is now possible rebellion of the 12 surrounding districts.

In a desperate attempt to silence the uprisings, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) forces Katniss and other victors of past Hunger Games to once again endure the traumatizing games, almost like a Hunger Games’ greatest hits, in order to eliminate hope and rebellion. I would categorize this plot as a thinker’s action movie; it’s smart and looks in-depth at a tragic future.

This series brings actors who truly understand their characters. Every actor plays his or her character exactly like one might expect when reading the books. Lawrence, of course, stands out as the star role.

“I didn’t feel like an action star, I didn’t feel like a superhero, I felt like a hunter,” Lawrence said in a January interview with Entertainment Weekly. Her portrayal of Katniss is the glue that holds these movies together. The fact of the matter is, if this role were not done correctly, the movie simply would not work.

Hutcherson also helps create fantastic chemistry with Lawrence on screen.

“I was so happy to explore the Peeta and Katniss relationship. It’s so important to the film,” Hutcherson told Entertainment Weekly in January. Their performances make scenes that would otherwise be corny, come off as engaging and unforgettable.

The supporting cast in this film is second to none. It is truly amazing to see such notable actors willing to give time for supporting roles. Woody Harrelson returns as the drunken mentor Haymitch as the perfect fit – considering he has played drunks in many previous films. Rock singer Lenny Kravitz also returns as Katniss’s quietly daring stylist, Cinna.

Kravitz has proved that he can be a notable actor in this movie along with his last film, “The Butler,” released in August. The last returning member that must be given credit is Stanley Tucci as Ceasar Flickerman. He only has about 20 minutes of screen time, but he steals every scene he is in. His enthusiasm in this movie creates a character that is both charming and memorable.

The movie also stays close to the source material. The problem with many book-to-film adaptations is that scenes and key plot points can be changed, like The Great Gatsby and even Harry Potter. I have read the whole Hunger Games trilogy and can without a doubt say that this script is one of the best adaptions. There are a couple of scenes that are added, but they add to character development that the book did not touch on.

“Catching Fire” had a much larger budget than the first movie, and it shows. The action scenes and special effects are convincing, and the beautiful landscapes used in the arena are nothing short of breath taking. I highly encourage seeing this on the big screen.

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” lives up to the hype created by millions of fans – it simply has everything going for it. It proves that novels can be converted to movies and remain close to the source material, is well-acted, beautifully shot and an exciting action movie. It should not be missed by loyal fans and moviegoers alike.