The theme of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire can be summed up in one word: more. Where the first movie left off with young Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mallark (Josh Hutcherson) as the victors of a brutal arena competition, the sequel gives us more romantic tension between the victors, more family drama as the Everdeens come to grips with Katniss’ popularity, and more arena battles when the oppressive government regime draws up plans to put Katniss and Peeta back in the arena.
The seeds of rebellion against President Coriolanus Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) rule are plainly and brashly evident as Everdeen and Mellark embark on a tour of all the districts in a display of government ambassadorship. What starts as peaceful public relations turns ugly when an elderly citizen gives the pair a three-fingered salute. Promptly executed, the salute inspires the rest of nation to follow suit and show their unity, spurring Snow and his new gamesmaster Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to devise something extra special for the 75th anniversary of the Hunger Games.
What follows next are elaborate plot devices meant to keep things interesting, but they’re laden with holes. In the arena, where allies maintain a tense relationship with one another, the environment changes on a dime with murderous intent. The participants are quick to realize the game changes every hour on the hour, but the concept seems rote and uninspired. And while one would expect plenty of excitement during the free-for-all, the story meanders without any meaningful surprises or threats because neither Katniss or Peeta are ever in any real danger that Katniss can’t save them from. As second movies in a trilogy go, Catching Fire is a dud that doesn’t build steam. It does pretty much everything the first movie does, except it lacks Katniss’ innocence and Peeta’s ingenuity. This one’s washed up.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
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Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Written by: Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth