DIRECTOR: Francis Lawrence
May Contain Spoilers!
Will I be adding this to my collection? YES
Catching Fire is the second entry in what will in movie terms, be a quadrilogy of what originally a trilogy of novels. But what was originally a relatively small, Spring movie back in 2012, has quite rightly and justifiably earned the respect, admiration and loyal following of film & book fans alike.
So, what has made The Hunger Games (2012) work? Well, Gary Ross’ direction was a huge factor, managing to direct a film rather than an episode in a franchise, the mistake which so many films of this nature have made. But even the previous holder of the crown, Twilight (2008), began well, grungy and artistically made but The Hunger Games showed us just how easy it is to make a movie franchise aimed at teenagers work on so many levels.
The Hunger Games and its first sequel, Catching Fire, are well on course for creating a gripping and audacious franchise. This film’s director, Francis Lawrence, has a slight and direct style that Ross, who delivered a surprising and refreshing style on the a mainstream book adaptation veered from, but this is more nuts and bolts. The problem is and I suspect that the source novel has a lot to do with this, is that the story is somewhat repetitive, having to take many beats from the first film.
This year, in order to eliminate Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who has now become a beacon of hope for the resistance movement against the authoritarian government, led by President Snow (Donald Sutherland), a special editor of The Hunger Games is created. The 24 contestants are selected from previous winners, meaning that Katniss is now up against experienced adults of all ages, rather than innocent children.
This change is valuable and does give the film a different spin but the games themselves are presented in a very similar way. But besides the stellar cast, which includes Philip Seymour Hoffman as the new games master, a brilliantly malevolent portrayal might I add, it’s the screenwriters, Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt who steal the show. This is a tight screenplay at times, pushing the envelope of clichés and tropes and skewing them just enough to keep it fresh and at times, shocking.
The weakest element of this film is the ending which because if it’s very nature, is a dark cliffhanger and quite telling if the tone which is to come. But it just feels a little anticlimactic and seems to “borrow” its final shot from Matrix Reloaded and Breaking Dawn Part 1. This is in many ways the more clichéd moment is a story which is somewhat by its very nature, derivative.
Overall, I had high hopes for this franchise after the surprise of the first film but I had not expected its sequel to equal or possibly even surpass the original but here we are. If this keeps up this level of film making prowess, screenwriting, tone and originality in the face of derivatives, then The Hunger Games quadrilogy could very well be the best franchise of this decade and one to make its mark within it as The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy did. The Dark Knight Trilogy not withstanding…