‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ review: Ten times better than the first movie

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Liam Hemsworth, director Francis Lawrence, and Jennifer Lawrence on the set of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Liam Hemsworth, director Francis Lawrence, and Jennifer Lawrence on the set of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Catching Fire review in a nutshell

Best in The Hunger Games series with lots of action and higher production values.

Click here or scroll below for where to watch Catching Fire.

Update: You can also check out my reviews of The Hunger Games, Mockingjay – Part 1 and Mockingjay – Part 2 here.

Movie synopsis

Having survived the 74th Hunger Games and unintentionally stirring the beginnings of an uprising against the Capitol with her defiance, Katniss Everdeen and her fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are forced to return to the arena when past Victors are summoned to take part in the Quarter Quell.

Catching Fire movie review (with some spoilers)

With a new director and a bigger budget comes a film adaptation that surpasses its predecessor by all counts. (No more shaky cam and choppy editing! And the costumes by new costume designer Trish Summerville are a lot more refined.)

Director Francis Lawrence (who did I am Legend and Constantine) takes over the helm from Gary Ross, and gosh, it really shows. It may be because Francis Lawrence has more experience directing blockbusters (and also the budget being upped to US$130 million), but Catching Fire looks more like a “proper”, mainstream blockbuster than the shaky, poorly CGI-ed first movie did. The settings feel large and polished, and the action sequences in the arena are well choreographed and executed.

Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket) and Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen) in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket) and Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen) in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Jennifer Lawrence is the anchor of the movie, both character and performance wise (and thankfully, way more expressive this time round. She really was stone-faced in the first one). The scene in District 11 where she pays tribute to Thresh and Rue is particularly heartfelt — helps that they included the same music from Rue’s death scene — and therefore the cruelty of what comes immediately after has a greater impact. Josh Hutcherson is much improved as Peeta, both in looks and his interactions with Katniss. (If only he had channelled this performance into the first movie! And then perhaps amped it up a little for this sequel.) And Liam Hemsworth as Gale is just bloody handsome.

Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne
SO BLOODY HANDSOME.

Of the returning characters, I’m most impressed by Effie’s (Elizabeth Banks) character development, as you can see her heartache — perhaps not at the Capitol’s proclivity for sending children to their deaths, but for sending her beloved Victors back to face death. Of the new cast members, Jena Malone as the feisty and caustic Johanna Mason is the most delightful addition. And while I prefer book Finnick, described as “one of the most stunning, sensuous people on the planet” (a description that anyone will be hard-pressed to live up to) and one of my absolute favourite characters for his charm and complexity, Sam Claflin infuses Finnick with a multifacetedness that shows off not only his athletic prowess and charm but also the emotional vulnerability that we will see more of in Mockingjay.

Lynn Cohen as Mags and Sam Claflin as Finnick in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Lynn Cohen as Mags and Sam Claflin as Finnick in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Fans of the book have very little to complain about. They adapted all the major events faithfully, and even put in some of the smaller details that I thought they would leave out: such as taking the time to develop Mags’ mentor relationship with Finnick; including the role of the morphlings; and even the part at Snow’s party where Katniss’ prep team introduces to them the potion that will help them throw up so that they will have more room to stuff themselves, which highlights the obscene excess of the Capitolites when the rest of the country is starving. They even kept Johanna’s stripping scene in the elevator, which I thought would be too risque for a PG rating. (I laugh everytime I recall Katniss’ subtle jealousy describing her oiling up her boobs for a wrestling match in the books.)

Katniss’ face as she strips in the elevator is hilarious! ?

I was looking forward to the scene where Gale is whipped and Katniss rushes to defend him because I’m into hot guys getting whipped and then rescued by damsels in shining armour because that’s when she stops being oblivious as to her feelings for him. “Gale is mine. I am his. Anything else is unthinkable.” It turned out fine, though I wish they kept Haymitch’s response to Commander Thread as snarky as it was in the book, as compared to the more conciliatory tone he took in the movie.

“I don’t care if she blew up the blasted Justice Building! Look at her cheek! Think that will be camera ready in a week?” Haymitch snarls.

Chapter 8, Catching Fire

But it was the filmmakers keeping Katniss’ interaction with Gale in the aftermath word for word that delighted my inner fangirl. (If I’m a little biased towards Gale in the movie, it’s because I feel so sorry for what happens to him later on, and I want him to have as many lovely scenes with Katniss as possible. Also: Liam Hemsworth!)

Catching Fire is already my favourite out of the four movies. Not just because it’s my favourite book in the series (because shit hasn’t really hit the fan yet), but because Mockingjay is so depressing that I doubt I will enjoy watching it very much.

Plus, seriously, it is ten times better than the first movie. I cannot stress this enough.

Where to watch Catching Fire

Streaming services: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is not on Netflix Singapore or US, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu. You can try Netflix in other countries like Canada, Australia, India, the Netherlands and Japan though.

Rent/Buy: Get it on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, FandangoNOW, Microsoft, Redbox

(Most of these rental/purchase links aren’t for Singapore viewers, so if you’re in Singapore and you really want to watch it, you’ll need a VPN if you don’t already have one. ? I’m using NordVPN, which costs US$125.64 for 3 years. It’s even cheaper if you have a Shopback or Rakuten account (formerly known as Ebates) and activate your cashback before your purchase.)

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