‘Catching Fire’ Scorches the Competition

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Courtesy of Lionsgate

Sydney Rogalsky, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Oftentimes, the second film in any series can fall short, regularly disappointing fans and acting as a placeholder and transition between the interesting beginning and climactic ending. Generally, sequel films don’t quite live up to the hype of their predecessors. “Catching Fire,” though, was the exact opposite.

Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of Katniss Everdeen in the second installment of the popular “Hunger Games” series has garnered much praise and recognition—and for good reason. In the film, Katniss must deal with the implications of winning the Hunger Games: not only the consequences of being in the public spotlight for the first time in her life, but also the mental consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder. Nightmares and flashbacks routinely plague her and Lawrence captures the mental instability of the “girl on fire” with such clarity and awareness that it’s almost hard to believe she isn’t actually Katniss Everdeen.

Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth both shine in this film, embodying the two things Katniss needs most: Peeta—someone who understands what she went through in the Games and can empathize with throughout the aftermath—and Gale—someone who represents stability and innocence, a person who was an integral part of her life before she was forced to grow up too quickly and kill human beings in order to survive. Though the love triangle was a much bigger part of this film, the characters were portrayed in such a way that it didn’t become cheesy or over-the-top in the fashion of other love triangle-centric films, but rather as earnest and believable in Katniss’s struggle to realize who she truly needed instead of which boy was simply the hottest.

Phenomenal acting aside, something absolutely needs to be said for the behind-the-scenes work on this film. The make-up artistry was absolutely unparalleled in its originality and complexity. Every citizen of the Capitol looked outrageous and over the top—exactly as they should. Elizabeth Banks, who plays District 12 escort, Effie Trinket, was exceptionally mind-boggling. It was nearly impossible to reconcile the bubbly and vivacious Effie with Banks’s true appearance.

Moreover, each scene was beautifully shot. There wasn’t a single shot that seemed careless or unintentional—the movie seemed to have been extremely thought-out and planned to even the smallest detail. Francis Lawrence’s only flaw as a director was that he didn’t also direct the first film. Not a second was wasted, not a moment was dull or boring, and not once could critics of the first film argue that the “Catching Fire” wasn’t one of the most attention-grabbing works of the year.

Clocking in at approximately $307 million for opening weekend worldwide, the film has already passed its predecessor, and with good reason. For anyone who hasn’t seen the film just yet, you are missing out. If “The Hunger Games” was the spark that started it all, “Catching Fire” is the inferno that burns its way into film history, and into the hearts of millions.