The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Review

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Is Hunger Games: Catching Fire just a little bit of history repeating, or is it an uncomfortable glimpse into our not too distant future?

Having been entered into Panem’s barbaric Hunger Games and lived to tell the tale, thanks to an implausible love story with fellow district twelve resident Peeta Mellark, Katniss Everdeen is back to her old life again.

Sort of.

Of course, now she’s Panem’s celebrity du jour, life’s a lot more comfortable.

She lives in a house, a very big house in the country; along with her newly reformed mother, chip off the ol’ sisterly block Primrose and the faux love of her Peeta.

Or maybe he has a house right next to hers, I can’t remember.

Either way, they’re pretty close to each other; that’ll be the houses rather than Peeta and Katniss.

Naturally, like any girl, all she wants to do is have some fun; and that strapping young lad Gale, who definitely doesn’t live in the same house, appears to be Katniss’ object of her affection.

And I get the feeling, she’s not the only one.

As much fun as this pair’s clandestine hunting trips are, it’s not long before President Snow shows up on her doorstep with a favour to ask.

And Snow’s really not the kind of guy who takes no for an answer.

You see, Miss Everdeen’s actions in last year’s hunger games have caused something of a stir in Panem’s capitol.

Having fooled the watching world into falling for her not so true romance with Peeta, the President now gently reminds Katniss if she’d like to keep her family and loved ones alive, she’d better maintain this façade.

Boo, and quite literally hiss.

That’s not the worst of it mind, as Katniss’ rebel yell has been taken as a symbol of resistance from the disenfranchised and downtrodden masses who are no longer happy to accept the breadcrumbs thrown to them from the capitalist utopia of district one.

The people have been pushed too far and no longer fear the lethal consequences of resisting the status quo, but that’s still not quite enough to spark a revolution.

What they really need is someone to stand up to the excess of their garish overlords, and Katniss Everdeen is this example.

So Panem’s President persuades Katniss and Peeta to take a celebratory tour of the districts, as flag-bearers for the false hope the poor are no longer willing to swallow.

Wary that this may no longer do the trick, Snow also has a few more surprises lined up for this year’s version of Hunger Games.

It’s fair to say I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first Hunger Games film.

Plot developments preyed upon cheap emotions and were far too convenient, while the back story for how Panem came to be was practically non-existent, so we could get straight on with the games.

Not the greatest idea if you want an audience to care about your characters.

So I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is.

Everything’s that little bit darker and more grown up for Katniss Everdeen and friends this time around, as they find themselves fighting against the grotesque machinery of the über capitalist society they’ve been born into.

New director Francis Lawrence even remembers to set the scene before whisking us off for some hunger games in his sequel, which gives the action scenes that follow so much more meaning.

Then there’s the other reason why Suzanne Collins’ second instalment of her Hunger Games books is so much easier to engage with, even though the paradox of someone getting filthy rich from a story about how we should overthrow our filthy rich is a tough one to stomach.

As more and more people go without while the elite continue to gorge themselves on the fat of our land ever more greedily, The Hunger Games resonates with the way of life we have today more strongly than ever.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Of course, there shouldn’t be any surprise at this; this is the capitalist dream after all.

And it’s the one thing that all the privately schooled agents of our one party democracy truly believe in.

There’s also the ghoulish voyeurism in our never sated appetite for reality tv, where we marvel at this year’s contestants who desperately struggle for the chance to have a life just like one of their elite judges enjoys.

The prophetic nature of Collins’ books have become far too close for comfort, which only makes The Hunger Games: Catching Fire all the more compelling.

It’s not all good news though, as it’s hard to avoid that deja vu feeling once the actual games loom over the horizon again.

And as this is most definitely the first part in a two or even three film narrative arc, there’s no sense of climax at the conclusion.

But the cast are eminently more entertaining this time around, thanks to the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee and the extra screen time afforded to that malevolent force of nature Donald Sutherland as President Snow.

Toss some simply spectacular costumes and sets into the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for big screen entertainment.

So ignore the history that repeat on you with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, as take a look into our future.

Jonathan Campbell

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November 2013