wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)
Taking things further from The Hunger Games and nicely setting things up for the remainder of the series, Catching Fire is a neat adventure film that holds its own. Jennifer Lawrence is a treat to watch, and her Katniss Everdeen is a character worth rooting for.Read more
What a hero Katniss Everdeen is! She's bold, fearless, righteous and talented; she's also rash, impulsive and unsure. A heady cocktail of grey and white, she's the kind of hero our cinema has sorely lacked. She also reminds us of what a pity it is that we've had so few genuine female heroes in the fiction of our times.
Yes, the situations around her often seem conveniently conducive for her heroism to thrive. And yet, one can't help rooting for her, because she's that rare protagonist whose conflicts often mirror our own. Mostly though, it is the sight of her relishing a challenge that truly makes her a delight.
Catching Fire takes off from 2012's The Hunger Games, based on the continuing novel by Suzanne Collins. After the 74th Hunger Games that saw Katniss and Peeta emerge as joint winners at the end of the previous film, the pair are now celebrities in all of Panem. President Snow, however, also notices that young Katniss - monickered 'The Girl on Fire' - is also beginning to become a symbol of rebellion against The Capitol; a spark that must be quelled before it becomes a raging fire.
With a change of guard at the helm - Francis Lawrence takes over as director for the remainder of the series - Catching Fire seems grittier than the first film. Life in Panem seems more grim, and consequently, the need for a rebellion seems stronger than ever.
Simultaneously, the conflict in Katniss's personal life seems to go hand in hand with the unrest in Panem. She doesn't want the two to intersect, and yet, life has placed her at a juncture where the two are nearly one and the same. She's the beacon of hope that the oppressed need to rally around, when all she wants is to be away from it all, with her family and love.
Around all of this, the lavish, obnoxious decadence of those in power, and the gloomy existence of those without it, is brought into sharp contrast - at times a little stronger than is completely necessary. The alternating orgy of colour and dull blue-grey monochrome does have its intended effect, despite its obviousness.
The film turns particularly thrilling in its final act - the 75th Hunger Games - which truly takes what we saw in the previous film to a new level; absolute mayhem that keeps you on the edge. Even if, like in the previous film, a lot happens that makes things conveniently easy for Katniss and Peeta. This was one of the problems I had with the first film as well, but it unfortunately seems the kind of liberty the writers and director don't seem to want to take stock of.
Catching Fire also has a soundtrack that builds mood and tension throughout the film, all the way till the end credits, which have a few nice tracks that play all along till the end of the roll.
Expectedly, Jennifer Lawrence aces it once again as Katniss Everdeen. Fresh from all of the media attention, adulation and that Academy Award for her flakier-than-snow Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook, the spunky actress just dons Katniss like she and the character were never apart all this while. Josh Hutcherson, meanwhile, has grown well into the character of Peeta, seeming far more confident this time.
The supporting cast - Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson and Donald Sutherland in particular - manage to make their respective characters and their strong traits stand out. The excellent Phillip Seymour Hoffman joins the cast of the film, and what a presence he is. His character is one of the most intriguing in the series now, and is likely to play an important role ahead.
But mostly, Catching Fire works because it does what an intermediate film in a series must do - it takes things up a notch from the first film, and it sets things up nicely for the next one. And it does so while also being a sharp, emotional and thrilling film all by itself. This, really, is how you light a spark.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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