Hunger Games heating up
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE ( M)
Director: Francis Lawrence ( I am Legend) Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland.
IT’S Games on again. Catching Fire, the second screen outing for the all- conquering
Hunger Games phenomenon, marks a gradual, but notable improvement upon its predecessor.
The tone is darker, the storytelling is more complex and the crucial elements of the much- loved novels by Suzanne Collins remain resolutely intact.
Once again, Jennifer Lawrence leads from the front with an emphatically grounded performance as warrior heroine Katniss Everdeen.
As the story picks up, Katniss has returned in triumph to District 12 after taking out the 74th Hunger Games.
The cynical President Snow ( Donald Sutherland) is still hard at work oppressing the masses.
In an effort to distract them further from his nefarious plans, Snow leans on Katniss to play up a supposed love she has developed for her Games co- winner, Peeta ( Josh Hutcherson).
Not surprisingly, this doesn’t go down well with her real beau, Gale ( Liam Hemsworth).
However, as a certain sense of stoic pragmatism has kept Katniss alive so far, she reluctantly goes along with the ruse.
The first half of the film zeroes in on Katniss’ personal frustrations with becoming a poster girl for the brutal regime she loathes.
Though this section is short on gripping action, a deeper understanding of her character is achieved that will be capitalised upon in Mockingjay, the two- part finale to the series which launches this time next year.
The second half of Catching Fire returns to more familiar territory with the staging of the 75th Games. The twist here is that the tournament is open only to previous winners.
Katniss must step into a volatile new games arena – an enclosed biosphere containing hazards such as poison gas, electrical force fields and, err, killer monkeys – and get the better of an all- star field of contestants.
Speaking of all- star fields, the supporting cast of Catching Fire make winning contributions across the board.
Woody Harrelson ( as the wily mentor Haymitch), Elizabeth Banks ( as Effie Trinkett) and Stanley Tucci ( as Caesar Flickerman) repeat their great work from episode one.
A lively bunch of new faces led by Phillip Seymour Hoffman ( as the venerable game designer Plutarch) and Jena Malone ( as Katniss’ rival Johanna Mason) save the experience from ever getting too familiar.
While the running time is demanding at almost two and a half hours, there’s barely a moment wasted in Catching Fire. The pacing is sharp, as is the writing and direction.
Take the tip from Haymitch when he tells his protégés “last year was just child’s play”.
Catching Fire burns up the screen in its own right, and in fine style.
Now showing Village Cinemas