Film Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

starring Jennifer LawrenceJosh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Sam ClaflinDonald Sutherland and Jena Malone

or watch the Final Trailer for Catching Fire below...

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Synopsis 

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" begins as Katniss Everdeen has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a "Victor's Tour" of the districts.  Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) - a competition that could change Panem forever.
I saw Catching Fire with a friend the Thursday night it first opened in theaters and we both loved and enjoyed watching it. I had been following this sequel since after seeing the first movie. I even read the first two books including the second one that this sequel of same title was adapted to. Loved both books and the first movie. I posted my review of the first movie here: Film Review: The Hunger Games

 

While I've followed this movie as it was being made much more closely than the first movie and had read the second book prior to seeing it. I was really excited to go and see this movie, even with all the hype and media blitz surrounding this film, it didn't ruin my anticipation and excitement of seeing this film. Not too mention, Jena Malone (and other new actors cast to play new characters in this sequel) joining the already established and amazing returning cast from the first movie got me more excited. I love Jena Malone! I thought she's an underrated and versatile character actress since I first saw her in Stepmom and Bastard Out of Carolina when she was younger and a child actress. Then, I've seen some of her TV and film work such as Saved!, Pride & Prejudice, Sucker Punch, Hatfields & McCoys, and the YouTube 3-episode series Dakota (where she played the title character) to name a few. I got excited when Jena was cast as Johanna Mason. I've heard about the character being a fan favorite from the The Hunger Games trilogy book fans even before I've read the second (Catching Fire) book. When I finally read the book, I understood why. The character's very interesting and complex at the same time. When Jena was first rumored for the casting of Johanna Mason, I most certainly had hope she would be cast as seeing her previous recent work (as Nancy McCoy in History's Hatfields & McCoys), I knew she will be amazing in the part. She's a great and experienced actress and I knew she will not disappoint. More on Jena Malone as Johanna Mason in a bit...

But first...

[Warning! ... for those who haven't seen this movie and don't want to be spoiled...]


This movie was great. I loved that it stayed faithful and close to the book (for the most part) with minor omitted scenes and slight alterations on dialogues (as about 75-80% were taken straight) from the book, which if I hadn't go back and re-read certain chapters from the book (since I've only read the book once prior to seeing this movie), I wouldn't have noticed. I didn't mind that they slightly changed or switched one character's line for another character. There were a couple scenes from the book that I wanted to see in the film that were not shown...perhaps they'll be on the deleted scenes? (I hope so). Other than those, this film was very true to the book. The ensemble cast was equally great especially the new additional cast/actors playing the new supporting characters such as Jena Malone as Johanna Mason, Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair, Jeffrey Wright as Beete, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee to name a few. The action scenes and special effects in the arena were great. The special effects on the spinning cornucopia was pretty good. The jabberjay birds and the fog poison were quite intense! Also, the mocking jay mimic scene was interesting. Great direction by Francis Lawrence, who took over and replaced the first movie, The Hunger Games director Gary Ross.

The returning cast/characters...
Jennifer Lawrence as the main lead character Katniss Everdeen was great, as usual. I love her as Katniss Everdeen (since the first movie) and I'm always impressed by Miss Lawrence's great acting in some movies I've seen her in...thus far including the first two The Hunger Games/Catching Fire films, X-Men: First Class, and especially her independent films (The Burning Plain, Winter's Bone, and The Poker House to name a few). Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark was even better and more interesting in this sequel. Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy was great and funny as he was in the first movie. Though he was more funny in this second movie. Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket was her usual, funny, and outrageous self. Her outrageous costumes were even more fabulous in this movie than the first. Loved her monarch butterfly costume...very creative and unique design and fits her character perfectly. Also, love her saying, "Here's the library. All mahogany," lol. Lenny Kravitz as Cinna was cool as he was in the first movie (you can see why Katniss was very close to him) and loved his memorable "I'm still betting on you, girl on fire," line. Stanley Tucci as Ceasar Flickerman is back as the fun talk show host at the Capitol who interviews the tributes and victors. Loved that he was rooting for Katniss as the "girl on fire" (and gets so excited on the sight of her) and Peeta (they had a funny banter whenever he interviews Peeta). Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne, while he's eye candy, I felt bad for the torture that his character had gone through when he got whipped! Also, seeing his reaction when Katniss & Peeta were on Victory Tour with their "romance" on display and the bombshell that the capitol announced that they were engaged! Poor guy! But at least he got to kiss Katniss and she kissed him about a couple of times or so (if I remember right). Still, I don't feel too bad for him as I love Katniss with Peeta more than with him, lol...at least romantic-wise. I prefer Katniss & Peeta together more than with Gale. I guess because of the experience they endured and had gone through in the first Hunger Games and the intimate connection they shared whenever they're alone. Gale seemed more like her BFF than a boyfriend material and was mostly thrown in the friend zone in the first movie especially when Peeta entered the picture, lol. And Donald Sutherland as President Snow was great and appeared more in this sequel than the first. He was menacing and scary. Loved his first scene with Katniss at the beginning when he visited her home (at the victors' village at District 12) and told her "don't lie to me. You promised" (in an angry tone) and to "convinced" him about her pretend romance to Peeta. Also, his random scenes with his adorable granddaughter were cute and funny...we could see a bit of Snow's softer side when he's with his granddaughter.

New Cast/Characters...
Jena Malone as Johanna Mason was brilliant and amazing! She was a great addition for this film. I'd say kudos to the casting director for casting her in this character. Miss Malone was spot on and nailed her character perfectly. She did a fantastic job playing Johanna Mason and her portrayal of the character was so much more than I expected. I loved and enjoyed watching her character in this film. She was a scene stealer (even overshadowed the main star Jennifer Lawrence in few key moments they appeared together) and one of the best things about this film. Though her screen time was limited (similar in the book...I think she'll have more part in the next two films!), but she was great in every scene she appeared in. I'm very glad the marketing and promos for this film didn't show much of her nor did they spoil or ruin (the element of surprise of) her big moments in the film as both her introduction in the elevator scene with Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch and her Quarter Quell interview were a pleasant surprise (even though I've read them, but visually I was looking forward to how Jena will portray her Johanna character in those scenes in the movie), randomly hilarious and memorable scenes. They were easily my favorite scenes in this movie and I can still remember after the film ended and long after the end credits roll. These scenes too got the most LOL, cheered, and big reaction from the audience! Johanna's lines were memorable too. I loved the way she says, "What? They can't hurt me. There's no one left I love," to Katniss, Finnick, Peeta, and Beete. Also, I love when she said, "love is weird," and "let's go lovebirds!" (to Katniss & Peeta, lol). Though, it's interesting one of her best lines in the book was not used in this film. At least, I don't think or remember hearing her say (I'll have to see this movie again just to see if she did...update: I've seen this movie again with another friend...this time on IMAX and nope she didn't say it.) "I don't care if you're knocked up, I'll rip your throat out." Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair was another great addition to this wonderful film. He's handsome for sure, but he was pretty good in his part. He was charismatic and charming as Finnick. While Jeffrey Wright was good as Beete, he didn't have much screen time, likewise with Amanda Plummer as Wiress, Lynn Cohen as Mags (I don't know why she was mute in this movie...I don't remember her being one in the book...sad what happened to her character in her last scene in the film), Alan Ritchson as Gloss (I remember him in as AC aka the Aquaman in Smallville...too bad he played the bad guy here, but he fits the character though), and the other tributes/former victors. And last, but not least, Philip Seymour Hoffman was good as Plutarch Heavensbee, but he was not in the movie much either (similarly in the book as well). His random scenes with a President Snow and Katniss were good though.

Favorite Scenes...
- the Victory Tour scenes with Katniss & Peeta, winners of the 74th Hunger Games.
- The elevator scene where Johanna stripped naked in front of Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch (interesting, in the book, just re-read parts of it after seeing the movie, he was not in the elevator with them when this took place) was random and hilarious...I was waiting for this scene to appear in the movie and was even amazed that Jena as Johanna was very impressive in this scene.
- The 75th Hunger Games aka Quarter Quell Capitol interview scenes with Katniss (her mocking jay reveal), Peeta (his surprising reveal of his relationship with Katniss), and Johanna (again, she was brilliant and hilarious in her interview scene where she was angry at the capitol for being brought back to the Hunger Games)
- the arena scenes with Katniss, Peeta, Finnick, and Johanna (her arena scenes were memorable too)
- All of Johanna Mason scenes (Love them all! well...what can I say, she was the standout and my most favorite character in this movie)!
- Katniss & Peeta's little alone and intimate moments
- Katniss' showing her archery skills at the training room where the other tributes/victors were stunned (except for Wiress who was the only one cheering her on, lol) as well as her chosen skill about the late Seneca Crane that stunned the game makers.
- Katniss and Cinna's last scene together...so sad!
- Katniss & Peeta's TV satellite interview with Caesar Flickerman at the beginning where they had to act like a "happy couple."

Favorite Catching Fire Quotes...
"You guys look amazing." -Johanna Mason
"Thank you." -Katniss Everdeen
"My stylist is such an idiot. District 7, lumber. Trees. Ugh. I'd love to put an axe on her face. So what do you think, now that the whole world wants to sleep with you?" -Johanna Mason
"The whole world doesn't..." -Katniss Everdeen
"I wasn't talking to you." [Looks at Peeta] -Johanna Mason
"Okay." -Katniss Everdeen
"[Approaches Peeta] "Unzip, please." -Johanna Mason
[Katniss rolls her eyes. Johanna undresses]
"Thanks. Let's do it again sometime." -Johanna Mason
"Thank you. Johanna Mason, District 7." -Haymitch Abernathy

"I'm still betting on you, Girl on fire." -Cinna

"Want a sugar cube?" -Finnick Odair

"What about you, girl on fire? Do you have any secrets worth my time?" -Finnick Odair

"They won't touch Prim!" -Peeta Mellark
"Your fiancé's right. The whole country loves your sister. If they torture her, or do anything to her, forget the districts. There will be riots in the Capitol. Hey, how does that sound Snow? What if we, what if we set your backyard on fire? You can't put everybody in here!
[everyone looks at her in disbelief]
"What? They can't hurt me. There's no one left I love." -Johanna Mason

"A wedding dress? Really?" -Johanna Mason
"Snow made me wear it." -Katniss Everdeen
"Make him pay for it." -Johanna Mason

"Katniss, when you are in the arena, remember who the real enemy is." -Haymitch Abernathy

"Eyes bright, chins up, smiles on. I'm talking to you, Katniss." -Effie Trinket
"It's cozy." -Peeta Mellark
"Attitude!" -Effie Trinket

"I want you guys to forget everything you think you know about the games. Last year was child's play. This year, you're dealing with all experienced killers." -Haymitch Abernathy

"There she is! Katniss Everdeen! The girl on fire!" -Caesar Flickerman

"I'll convince them." -Katniss Everdeen
 "No, convince me." -President Snow

"Here's the library. All mahogany." -Effie Trinket

"Love is weird." -Johanna Mason

"Nobody needs me." -Peeta Mellark
"I do. I need you." -Katniss Everdeen

"You saved us. I know that. But I can't go on acting for the cameras and then just ignoring each other in real life." -Peeta Mellark

"Peeta, the wedding, never to be?" -Caesar Flickerman
"Actually, we got married in secret." -Peeta Mellark
"A secret wedding. Alright, do tell." -Caesar Flickerman
"We wanted our love to be eternal. You know, Katniss and I were luckier than most. I wouldn't have any regrets at all, if it weren't... if..." -Peeta Mellark
"If it weren't... for what? What?" -Caesar Flickerman
"If it weren't for the baby." -Peeta Mellark

"She's not who they think she is. She just wants to save her skin. It's as simple as that. She has become a beacon of hope for them. She has to be eliminated. What do you think?" -President Snow
"I agree she should die but in the right way. At the right time. Katniss Everdeen is a symbol. We don't have to destroy her, just her image. Show them that she's one of us now. Let them rally behind that. They're gonna hate her so much they just might kill her for you. [laughter]-Plutarch Heavensbee

"Her entire species must be eradicated." -President Snow
"Her species, sir?" -Plutarch Heavensbee
"The other victors. Because of her, they all pose a threat. Because of her, they all think they are invincible." -President Snow

 "You promised me that you would save him over me! You promised me! You're a liar! You're a liar!" -Katniss Everdeen

"
They're holding hands. I want them dead." -President Snow

"F**k that! And f**k everyone that had anything to do with it!" -Johanna Mason

And many more...too many to list them here, lol...


Overall, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was a really great movie! Great ensemble cast and wonderful performances by all. Francis Lawrence did a great job directing this film. It was faithful and true to the book. Even more awesome than the first film (in my opinion, and I loved the first film!). Most of the dialogue were pretty similar to the book (which I loved and enjoyed hearing uttered by the characters on-screen) and the story was written (and adapted) very well. While it wasn't perfect (no book-to-film adaptation is or has ever been), it seemed a bit longer and the pacing was slow at times (at least in a few scenes at the beginning...until Johanna Mason appeared in her crowd-pleasing-intro-elevator scene, the training with the tributes scene, the fun Capitol interviews scene, and the arena scenes...I didn't even notice the time after seeing those scenes), but it was still terrific and very satisfying to see most of the key scenes from the book I've read were present in the film. This was easily one of my favorite films I've seen in theaters this year and it was worth the wait too! A must-see film for everyone (both fans of the trilogy book series and non-fans will love and enjoy watching this sequel)! This film was definitely worth watching (at least for me, it was and enough for me to see it more than once). I highly recommend you see this movie, if you haven't already. Go see it!

My The Hunger Games: Catching Fire film rating: (10/10; A+)

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