Saturday, 23 November 2013

Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Burning Bright

Is Jennifer Lawrence the best actress of her generation? Yes, yes, YES!  The Academy Award winner can play beautiful, ugly, smart, stupid, tough, vulnerable... Hollywood’s reluctant starlet is at the top of her game and cinema audiences are loving it. The sequel to last year’s smash hit is yet another glittering presentation of Lawrence’s flawless talent.

The survival of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) at the end of the previous film is an act of defiance that tyrannical President Snow (Donald Sutherland) will not tolerate. Unrest is stirring in the twelve districts against the rule of the Capitol. With a victory tour and Quarter Quell around the corner, even outside the arena Katniss and her family aren’t safe.

There was a time when the Hunger Games dominated my life. I tore through Suzanne Collins’ trilogy in a manic daze of adrenaline and paranoia. One night I even dreamed, much to my mixed excitement and horror, that I too had joined Katniss in the arena. So if you were looking for an impartial critique you clearly came to the wrong place.

Sequels are a notoriously tricky business but Catching Fire triumphs in much the same way as its predecessor. The services of the same excellent cast are retained, increasingly vivid landscapes are generated and the tension is as high as ever. Therefore a trip to the box office for this offering is sure to prove money well spent. As you emerge from the cinema, into the merciless pinch of winter air, you won’t believe how quickly the last 146 minutes passed by.

My criticisms are the same as the last time too. Katniss is the only character who is not left harshly treated by the script. People only fully come to life when they are provided with a collection of their own juicy details and secrets. Unfortunately, most here either have no idiosyncrasies or they are too well concealed to be noticed.

Moreover, experiencing the same sense of jeopardy which is found in the books requires a lot more gore than is being shown. Of course, I understand the commercial reasons behind the director’s decision to tone down the action but I still can’t help feeling disappointed. Ultimately, its absence costs the film the cutting edge which would have put me on the edge of my seat.

Catering to a 12A certificate will always leave the violent elements a little timid but otherwise Catching Fire is a solid adaptation of hallowed source material. Nobody can claim greater credit for the success than Lawrence. The Silver Linings Playbook star has made the tough heroine her own in a way which will surely leave actress and creation forever entwined.


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