Movie proves sequels can be better than the original

Dec. 2, 2013

April Wefler
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4/5 stars

Can one 17-year-old girl cause an uproar that will change society?

This is the question posed in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” the sequel to the 2012 “The Hunger Games” and based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Collins. The movie was released in theaters Nov. 22.

After her triumphant win in the 74th annual Hunger Games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is visited by President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Snow is unhappy with the rebellion in the districts that was a result of Katniss’ actions.

He tells her to stop the rebellion and threatens the people she cares about if she fails. When Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Katniss leave on their Victory Tour, the two see for themselves what Katniss’ actions have caused.

The tour starts in District 11. Peeta and Katniss’ speeches to the families of Rue and Thresh end in a three-fingered salute from the district and Capitol Peacekeepers hauling off the man who started it.

The man is killed by the Peacekeepers while a screaming Katniss is forced back on to the train by other Peacekeepers.

As Peeta and Katniss travel from district to district, their understanding of the rebellion increases. After their last visit, the presidential ball in the Capitol, the two return to District 12, which is overrun by Peacekeepers.

One Peacekeeper flogs a person close to Katniss, Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Katniss, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Peeta attempt to stop him and Snow decides to extract his revenge when he sees the broadcast.

As part of his revenge, Snow and the new head gamemaker, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), decide to do something special for the 75th Hunger Games, one of the special Quarter Quells that occur every 25 years.

For the 75th Hunger Games, the tributes are chosen from the previous Games’ victors, to prove that no one is invincible, especially not the victors of District 12.

The victors became the Capitol residents’ favorites, the decision making both the victors and Capitol citizens angry.

The film then transitions to the 75th Hunger Games and the games continue the same as in the 74th – but with a few twists.

As in the previous film, Lawrence is a sublime and convincing Katniss.

Sam Claflin, who was not fans’ original choice for the role of Finnick and whose casting was questioned, is fantastic and Sutherland is a sinister Snow.

Hutcherson, who was criticized for his performance in the previous movie, has more of a chance to shine in “Catching Fire.” Haymitch and Effie (Elizabeth Banks) provide amusing comic relief for the otherwise intense film.

Jena Malone is also great as Johanna, the tough girl from District 7 who clearly doesn’t like Katniss, and vice versa.

The costumes are well designed, although some are clearly saturated with what might be LED lights. Katniss’ Mockingjay costume is particularly well played.

One of the biggest criticisms of “The Hunger Games” was the shaky camerawork when filming the District 12 scenes. In “Catching Fire,” there is little shaking that occurs only when following the action.

“Catching Fire” was better than its predecessor and although there are a few changes, the movie is an excellent adaptation of the book.