'Last year was child's play' states Hamitch Abernathy, portrayed by Woody Harrelson. He is quite right too as Catching Fire, the second instalment in The Hunger Games franchise has become; far darker, moodier and emotionally styled - all with a bigger, broader scope in comparison to the first.
Continuing from the first HG, the film begins - as fans of the book will know - with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) back in District 12. With nearly a year passed since the events of the arena, and now mentors the duo must proceed with a victory tour throughout the Districts 11-1 to celebrate, all whilst keeping up the appearances of their love story. (There is not a single Prawn insight at District 9 - who knew.)
Shortly after capturing all of the standout emotion and violent traits from the novel they arrive in District 1, the Capitol. Where President Snow orders in his army of Stormtrooper look-alikes to the lower districts and announces that the 75th Hunger Games also coincides with the third Quarter Quell. Where that years reaping tributes are chosen from each Districts existing victors. Which in turn brings Peeta and Katniss back into the arena one more time. Dramatic suspense entrails and the story continues from there.
Taking over as director, Francis Lawrence- (no relation to Jen) and writers Michael Arndt and Simon Beaufoy have rather successfully crafted the story from paper to screen. Creating a rather faithful adaption. With its 146 minutes running time, it in fact includes almost every page from the book. But it is worth it.
Filled with mesmerizing performances, surreal narrative and seamless CG effects, you easily forget that you are watching a 12A, what with the raining blood, killing of Pensioners and extreme whipping scenes too. You are only reminded that it is a Young Adult film when you see the Wizard of Oz style Capitol and Effie’s (Elizabeth Banks) elaborate attire, and hairstyles that even Princess Leia would avoid.
Post her Oscar win back in February, Jennifer Lawrence is the key to the franchises now even larger success. Her performance is flawless, emotional and simply striking. Portraying Katniss through and through, she represents the lost heroine lead that has not been this good since Lara Croft. Almost the greatest anyway, during filming Harrelson ordered on multiple occasions to give the Oscar back for forgetting her lines.
Starring alongside the now Academy Award Winner, Josh Hutcherson (Peeta) now has an even bigger challenge. The first HG's showed him as a bit of a drip, rather weak and quite defenceless. But this time around he seems healthier, stronger and more confident in the role – but still not great. Also returning are regulars Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland, who has a much larger dictator-sith type role.
Additionally, the new cast is equally as exceptional, which include; Sam Claflin as Finnick (the most standout character, no doubt a fan favourite) Jeffery Wright, Jena Malone and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, respectively, are also brilliant. Proving promising sparring partners for Jennifer Lawrence.
May the odds be forever in Mockingjay’s favour.