The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Rated PG-13)
From now on, I'm going to see movies that are based on books far removed from finishing the book. That seemed to aid in my enjoyment of this considerably. When the first Hunger Games movie came out last year, I had just finished reading the book a few months prior. I liked it but didn't love it and thought it fell drastically short of where the book had taken me. So either I was thrown off because all the details from Suzanne Collins' book was still fresh in my mind or the film itself just wasn't that good. Judging by the reaction of critics and fans alike, it was that the film wasn't up to snuff because changes were made to the team and thank God they were.
Director Gary Ross created the first film and this sequel was done by Francis Lawrence. Ross directed films like Pleasantville and Seabiscuit. Lawrence directed films like Constantine and I Am Legend. Neither are stellar directors but more like adequate ones but when you consider their past work, which do you think is more suited for a film about a post-apocalyptic America where children battle each other to the death for the entertainment of adults? Exactly.
In every single way that the first one fell short, Cathing Fire wins. Lawrence has made a world that feels as gritty and evil as it should. His use of FX is far superior than what showed up in the first one; the script is better, the music resonates but it's the raw emotion that makes this the success it is. Granted, this story is full of heartbreak and tragedy but no more than the first book had. There are scenes in this film that made me tear up and they were scenes that did not have that affect when I read it. That impresses me as an audience member more than almost anything else in the film.
That's not to say that there isn't loads of action in Catching Fire though. The danger involved in the games feels so much more real this time around. The arena is 100% scarier and more creative and all of that is actualized almost perfectly in the film. Most of that terror is hightened by fantastic performances from Jennifer Lawerence, who's really starting to prove that she deserved that Oscar last year. She carries the film firmly on her shoulders even with new heavy hitters joining the cast like Phillip Seymore Hoffman (Doubt, Boogie Nights) and Jeffrey Wright (Source Code, Ides of March).
The production company responsible for making this franchise has made the decision that not only was Gary Ross wrong for the series and Francis Lawrence is right but that Lawrence is THE guy. They've named him the director of the next two (yes, they're splitting the last book for no other reason than greed) films. Seeing Catching Fire gives me the confidence that this series I enjoyed so much is in good hands, will continue to be and is making me hungry for more.