Latest “Hunger Games” Is Awesome. There, I Said It.November 22, 2013
“Why is it important that there’s a second movie?” a colleague asked after I pitched a blog post on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second film in the Hunger Games series. Later I realized that the answers I gave him were exactly those I covered in my review of the first movie: that it’s important that Hollywood welcomes and heavily promotes a strong female protagonist, and even more important that the public shows up in droves. And even though the sequel comes with the jaw-droppingly tone-deaf commercial tie-in of Cover Girl’s Capitol Collection (seriously, I will never get over this), it turns out that the biggest reason we need a second movie is because the second movie is freaking awesome.
Catching Fire ignites immediately with a visit from President Snow (Donald Sutherland) to warn Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) that she must help him quash the growing citizen rebellion or risk harm to everyone she loves. Katniss agrees, and from there she and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are whisked away on a victory tour of Panem. Instead of the festive celebrations that usually await Hunger Games winners, however, they are met with the sprouting seeds of revolution and the Capitol’s brutal but increasingly ineffective suppression techniques.
In a last-ditch effort to distract its subjects and destroy Katniss’s mystique, the Capitol calls for an all-star Hunger Games, pitting past victors against each other. As the only female victor from District 12, Katniss automatically ends up back in the arena, where she’ll have to murder beloved former victors to survive again; Peeta volunteers to join her. The action, violence, and special effects continue from there, culminating in a bold cliffhanger that leaves every loose end untied. If you want to know what happens next, you’ll have to wait for the next two movies. (Or go read the books.)
I say this as an enormous fan of the books and the franchise, but I loved the movie. It’s fantastic, better than the last one; with all the exposition already in place, it’s all action. But the movie carries import beyond the fact that it’s entertaining and features a much-loved and much-respected female lead (portrayed by the much-loved and much-respected Lawrence). The districts are rising up against the people who profit off their backs, while the 1 percent remain blissfully ignorant, watching reality TV and eating so much food that they’ve developed a serum to help them throw it up to make room for more. Screenwriters Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt even throw in a dig at the wedding industrial complex, which I both appreciate and sheepishly admit to supporting through my love of Say Yes to the Dress. And if you’re willing to confront those kinds of uncomfortable truths about yourself, if you believe that pop culture has the power to make us do that, then Catching Fire is a great movie.