Jennifer Lawrence has become one of the biggest names in entertainment since the first Hunger Games film (review here) was released. So much so that her persona almost seems too big to fill the shoes of Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire who succeeded in saving her own life and the life of Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) at the end of the first instalment.
While Daniel Radcliff struggles to disassociate himself from Harry Potter and Robert Pattinson may forever be Edward from Twilight, Jennifer Lawrence is Jennifer Lawrence first, and she’s one of the most well-liked celebrities in Hollywood today.
It helps that she plays strong characters who seem to fit her own humble yet carefree persona.
In Catching Fire, as Katniss, she has to deal with life after winning the 74th Hunger Games that includes being a celebrity at the will of Panem’s capitol before being thrust back into the arena for the third Quarter Quell, which pits her and Peeta against past winners of the Hunger Games across the 12 districts.
Despite reading the book fairly recently, I had forgotten how much of this story was focused on their tour of Panem and life before the games actually begin. It’s more intense as we get to know the more minor characters who are integral to the feeling and tension of the story overall. In particular, we warm up to Effie (Elizabeth Banks) who finally shows heart before saying goodbye to the victors as they leave for the arena.
The tone was more dismal in this movie. Where the first focused more on the action and simply getting through, this one is beyond survival. It’s about the degradation of the livelihood of Panem’s citizens. The hint of the uprising that seeps through the cracks of Katniss’, Peeta’s and our visuals. The colours are darker. It’s more dreary.
As it should be. The entire book series is consistently depressing.
As the story centres around the idea of hope, it is when hope is displayed near the beginning of the movie through various means that is most effective. The wall graffiti, the three-finger salute and the self-sacrifice are all powerful imagery that sit well into the rest of the movie.
The one positive that keeps popping up time and time again in this world of the endless need to merely survive is relationships.
Katniss’ endearing relationship with her sister Prim (Willow Shields) resurfaces briefly, as does her adoration of her stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), but it’s between the two men in her life that creates the rift.
Katniss is at odds with whom she loves and whom she is supposed to love. While we don’t see much of Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) in this film, I’m under the slight impression that the franchise is shifting ever-so-slightly toward a Twilight-style romance for Katniss between Gale and Peeta.
It’s inevitable given the presence of the love-triangle in the actual story but it’s a minor qualm with what is otherwise a satisfactory film. Sometimes rushed as key parts toward the end are raced over but satisfactory nonetheless.