Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

November 29, 2013

'Hunger Games' sequel sets stage for thrilling conclusion

By Ryan Madduxand Andy Stuckey Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — The Hunger Games saga continues with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (PG-13).

After becoming celebrities in the last games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are jammed into competing in the 75th Hunger Games with other selected winners from the various districts. Although clearly nothing more than an excuse to dramatically kill Katniss and thus squash the threat of rebellion, the game, much like last time, does not go as planned. Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci return with their respective roles.

Ryan: The early buzz with Catching Fire is that it’s an Empire Strikes Back-type of sequel. It raises the bar of not only the series but the genre as well. I don’t buy all those accolades; although I do think Catching Fire is an entertaining genre film much like the first one. Sometimes it’s too much like the first one—with its incessant rehashing of the first film (but also with the plot structure as well). Overall the movie successfully continues the narrative in an engaging manner.

Andy: With inevitable comparisons to the first film, it is tempting to make the claim that Catching Fire is better than the original Hunger Games. That was indeed my initial reaction, but it will be interesting to see how well the two films age. Catching fire is actually more subtle and political than the original, with the actual Hunger Games portion feeling a little tacked on at the end. That said, the concept of the games is compelling enough that it supplies a gripping conclusion while still setting up the third film.

Ryan: I think my biggest issue with the movie is that I don’t play into the main conflict between President Snow and Katniss. I’m sold on much of the world-building of the movie but find it incredibly hard to accept the notion that a supremely powerful dictator would allow a person and a situation to become so uncontrollable and out-of-hand. It’s like President Snow is taking his cues from the villains from the 1960’s Batman TV show and of every James Bond movie—especially those from the 60’s as well. The only thing missing is a white cat on his chair. While this bothers me, it doesn’t ruin the movie for me in any way. Every great hero needs a worthy adversary and I don’t see it with President Snow at this point in the series.

Andy: While the antithesis of Katniss and Snow may be a more far-fetched element of the film, it does allow an important theme to play out: the every (wo)man hero versus the dictator. While Katniss is allowed to exist and continue to (unintentionally?) rile up the populous, it is hard to imagine the President making choices that put her further in the public eye. The conflict embodies the central struggle of the story, and makes for an ending that forces you to anticipate the the third movie.

Ryan: Like I mentioned earlier, the world-building of Catching Fire (and of the series) is one of the film’s biggest assets. Many post-apocalyptic movies have the same look and vibe but Catching Fire presents a fantastical world in a more believable and relevant manner. And I do think the movie goes further in showcasing the more epic struggle between the Capitol and the Districts. And those themes—the haves vs. the have-nots, of freedom and subordination—are beginning to play out in a more legendary manner. Certainly the table is set for a thrilling conclusion.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a strong follow up to the success of the first movie. In spite of a few plot stretches, the film still earns a strong B.