Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

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December 6, 2013

'Catching Fire' delves into darker, somewhat redundant territory

(Continued)

That means the 12-to-18-year-old age range of normal Hunger Games competitions is nullified; it also means Katniss and Peeta are drafted back into the arena representing District 12, proving the government’s promise they’d never again be forced to compete is a lie.

“Fire’s” greatest and most glaring weakness lies in it similarities to “Games.” It sometimes feels as if director Francis Lawrence (“I am Legend” – assuming the reigns from Gary Ross) used the first film as a blueprint, transforming its story, plot, directorial style and other elements into a formula, which he adheres to a little too closely.

By the same token, however, the continuity between films 1 and 2 is impressive, with Director Lawrence managing to make the transition between the two more seamless than might otherwise be expected. In other words, these two films feel like they belong together, like they’re part of the same universe and world.

Helping in that regard is lead Jennifer Lawrence, who again brings her considerable presence to Katniss. She has a subtle, yet powerful combination of vulnerability, toughness and poise, and her chemistry with Hutcherson has improved since the first film, making their dynamic more compelling. Does she love him? Does she not? After all the pair has survived together, we’d like to see Katniss choose Peeta over the vapid Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth).

Of course, there’s not much time for romance when you’re trudging through the jungle, running for your life from flesh-devouring poisonous fog, rabid mandrills, blood rain, lightening and a horde of seasoned killers out to murder you before you can murder them. Indeed, that’s how Katniss and Peeta spend most of the second half of this film.

And although that’s how they spent much of the first film, “Fire” certainly differentiates itself with a twist ending that both leaves the viewer “hungering” for more, and foreshadows the series’ direction moving into 2014’s “Mockingjay – Part 1.”

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