At this point, I'd watch almost anything with Jennifer Lawrence in it. I was so impressed with her acting in Silver Linings Playbook that I would go to see a movie with her in it just out of curiosity to see if she could keep up the quality of her acting. However, her performance as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games had me in the theater to see her in Catching Fire just to see her bring to life the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy.
I was not disappointed, not a bit. Within seconds, I was immersed again in the world of Panem and the Districts, almost as if I had just stepped out of the theater watching the first movie. Captivated by Lawrence's acting, I was swept away into the story: victors of the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are returned to their District to live in comfort forever after. But they are required to participate in a "Victory Tour" to all the other Districts, as figureheads of Panem's wisdom of leadership, as popular figureheads of romantic love -- a love story that Katniss and Peeta concocted as a means to stay alive. Only for Peeta, that love was real. Katniss, on the other hand, is so shell-shocked by the Games experience she can barely get through a day without freaking out, and love is not something she wants to think about.
During the Victory Tour, Katniss and Peeta see that the brutally subjugated Districts are ready for revolution, and the Capitol sees that Katniss is a symbol of freedom to the people. The Capitol decides that the best bet for the status quo is for Katniss to die -- and other surviving Tributes to die, as well.
As I suspected, Jennifer Lawrence brought a stunningly apt performance to her role. In Lawrence's art, Katniss Everdeen was not only brave and honorable, but also vulnerable and wounded, angry and willing to fight for her family and friends, edgy and frightened, and utterly someone you want on your team.
Donald Sutherland played a truly evil President Snow, Woody Harrelson was more likeable as Haymitch than he has been in any role since the TV show Cheers, and Josh Hutcherson brought Peeta's conflicted emotions to the screen in a such a way that his love, his altruism, and his bitterness were all accessible to the viewer. Oh, and don't miss Jena Malone as Johanna. She's unforgettable.
If you liked the books, and/or the first movie, Catching Fire is sure to charm you.
I wasn't convinced with the first movie that I needed to own the DVD ... but this movie convinced me that I need to own the whole series. Jennifer Lawrence is the best.
You know, sometimes being a film critic is really tough work. I mean there's the getting up and out of the house to the movie theater, and that's what most people see, but there's also the whole issue of making sure that you've had a shower recently and your clothes are relatively clean. It's that behind the scenes stuff that most people don't know about, and it's part of the professional code of the film critic that prevent me from revealing the nitty-gritty of this, the underbelly of the business.
Now if you are a professional critic who reads my reviews in order to get material for your own review (no problem, by the way, go for it), you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. If however you are a professional in another field and are here simply to kill time while the guy from Accounting is giving a deadly boring presentation of last quarters sales figures by Googling "Jennifer Lawrence hot," then you may be wondering what the heck I'm talking about.
And that's exactly my point about Hunger Games:Catching Fire.
I believe that this movie can only be appreciated if you've seen the first Hunger Games movie, and how good it is will largely be determined on what happens in the next two installments. That said, Catching Fire is a good movie. With a new director at the helm, this is a highly polished film with good artwork, excellent writing, a tremendous cast, and a simply stunning performance by Jennifer Lawrence.
The clever device of the Hunger Games stories are games themselves. The games are a brutally oppressive and sadistic means for the wealthy central government to subjugate the outlying districts. That was nicely developed in the first movie. In Catching Fire we revisit the games, this time as an attempt to quell a growing unrest by killing off the peoples' heroes, the winners of the previous Hunger Games. And so once again we go through the selection process, the preparation and the hoopla, and then the deadly competition.
The risk the filmmakers took with this movie was there was no novelty. In some respects this story could be seen as simply a retelling of the first story with only cosmetic changes -- like Jurassic Park movies, where the original was really clever, but how many ways can dinosaurs run over people? That's why I think that the ultimate judgment of Catching Fire rests in where the story is going. If this series simply turns into a "the revolution will be led by kids" story, I will be disappointed. But there were a few new characters, and the introduction of some (not many) new plot twists, and a lot of time invested in the revealing of the Katniss Everdeen character. I am hoping that I will be pleased by what she turns out to be.
The big advantage the films have is that Katniss is played by Jennifer Lawrence who is capable of pouring a heart and soul into the character. Her performance alone is worth the price of admission.
If you want to see this movie, watch Hunger Games first, and just go ahead and put a note on your 2014 calendar for the opening of Hunger Games: Mockingjay on the 21st of November. Oh, and don't forget to check the The Piker Press on the following Monday for our review.