I found the movie adaptation of THE HUNGER GAMES Part 1 disappointing and lacking the excitement of the novel. This is definitely not true about CATCHING FIRE, a dark, simmering follow up that finds Katniss completely traumatized by her experience in the Hunger Games. Victory hasn't been sweet and though she has a nice house in The Victor's Village and plenty of food for Mom and Prim, she's haunted by the memory of what she had to do to get there. The action starts up again with a visit from the menacing President Snow ( a wonderfully creepy Donald Sutherland) who says he's onto Katniss's whole charade about being in love with Peeta and he has no intention of letting her become a figurehead for a revolution in the Districts. What follows is Katniss and Peeta's struggle to stay ahead of Snow's game and survive a Victory Tour and another round of the Hunger Games.
CATCHING FIRE is far more gritty and realistic than its predecessor and Jennifer Lawrence is both beautiful and tortured in the role. Even the superficial Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) is given an opportunity to show more depth and the new allies in the games - the gorgeous Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), the ballsy Johana Mason (Jena Malone), the weird genius Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) and the mad genius Wiress (Amanda Plummer) are all fully realized characters adding interest and variety to the action. Similarly, Haymitch (a terrific Woody Harrelson)and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) have more complex stories this time around and there's some real on-screen chemistry between Katniss and Peeta as their relationship develops.
With this movie THE HUNGER GAMES movies has become more than a comic book series. The story poses real, significant questions about human nature and our hunger for the sensational whether it relates to love, hatred or violence - a hunger that has been and will continue to be exploited by the media. On the positive side the story does show that there will always be brave people who put their lives on the line to do the right thing and love will win out in the end.
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