FROM THE DEN AT WOLF THEATRES — In reviewing last year’s “The Hunger Games,” I was impressed with the film’s ability to reach beyond its young-adult target audience and appeal to “anyone who enjoys suspenseful, challenging, morally-ambivalent entertainment.”
“Games” was dark, complicated and rife with violence, hitting movie screens like a kind of antidote to anyone sick of overly-packaged, excessively CGI-processed, cloying teen wizards or contrived, teenage-vampire melodrama.
Now comes the “Games” sequel, “Catching Fire,” based on the second novel in Author Suzanne Collins’ Young Adult “Hunger Games Trilogy.”
The above descriptions fit “Fire” just as aptly as the first film, but “Fire” adds superior visual effects, as well as improved set and costume design, making for a futuristic, dystopic vision that’s even more immersive and engaging. “Fire” is darker than its predecessor, too – no small feat.
When we left Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and the hopelessly love-struck Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the pair had turned the tables on evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and his minions in the Capitol of Panem by winning the 74th annual Hunger Games as a team, with both players surviving. Before the pair’s shenanigans, only a single victor had been allowed in previous games.
President Snow isn’t happy about the dual victory, as it has sown seeds of rebellion in Panem’s 12 impoverished, demoralized and subjugated districts. As a result, he commands Katniss and Peeta to hit the road and play up their feigned love to the masses, in the hope the romance will ease the waves of rebellious discontent roiling across the land.
It doesn’t work, though, and Snow and his new minion, Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), decide to hold a “Quarter Quell,” a special edition Hunger Games that pits past winners against each other in yet another battle to the death in an artificial “outdoor” arena.