Some films transcend their genre. When The Hunger Games series first debuted in 2012 it was clear that the film was already much smarter and better executed than its predecessors in the YA movie arena. It was no surprise that its popularity led to the complete series being adapted on to the screen. This weekend Hunger Games: Catching Fire burst into theaters!
While it more than satisfies the needs of its demographic, the film itself goes above and beyond expectation making it one of the best films of the year. Where the first Hunger Games laid the groundwork for the series, Catching Fire works off the foundation and then tears it apart.
Katniss Everdeen (played by the always talented and truly amazing Jennifer Lawrence) is on an authentic hero’s journey throughout the trilogy and that is showcased beautifully in the movie. Director Francis Lawrence pulls no punches this time around. Within seconds of the opening title the audience is thrown into the story without any backstory on the characters. This is a movie that does not speak down to its audience it and it fully expects you to be caught up by the time you enter the theater.
While that may seem like a bad thing to some it shows just how highly Lawrence respects the viewers. Many films of the YA genre structure their story like a television episode on the CW, don’t expect any of that here. Yes there is a love triangle but it never remains the focus of the film or retracts from the plot.
The film should be commended for its casting as well. Much of the film focuses on the Third Annual Quarter Quell, a competition that takes the standard Hunger Games concept but uses only previous victors. This allows for the film to expand on its original concept by bringing not only more experienced competition but older and wiser ones as well. It was a pleasant surprise seeing faces like Jeffrey Wright of Boardwalk Empire and Amanda Plummer pop up in key roles as past victors. Their performances, however subtle, bring a lot of passion into the film.
From the first scene the entire film is an emotional rollercoaster. Lawrence (both of them) should be commended; almost everyone on screen is given a backstory so when the danger comes the audience feels for them. That is a sign of a truly masterful film.
With one more film on the way Catching Fire has raised the stakes for the trilogy. More than that, it has almost single-handedly raised the stakes for the genre itself.
Opens nationwide November 22nd, watch the trailer here.