Reviews since 1993: A-E F-N O-Z Posters Who We Are and Why We Do What We Do Search the Site
Now in Release
DISNEY PIXAR DVDs
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is Part 2 of a four-part trilogy. (Part 3 is being broken into two films). Wallpaper background images are available if you click here.
The Primary Rule of this Site is that you should not have to read the book to understand the film. The first film, The Hunger Games, was adapted in a manner that we felt assumed the viewer had already read the original story. The adaptation practically required it. (That made it a failure by our scale. just saying . . . ). We left our screening thinking that things were left out of the adaptation which yielded a terrible film to all but the zillions that had read the books, who made the film into a box office bonanza. We weren't looking forward to this second installment but . . .
IN SHORT: Better than the first one. [Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some frightening images, thematic elements, a suggestive situation and language. 146 minutes]
That said, Catching Fire is the equivalent of picking up a very thick book, opening it to somewhere towards the middle, and reading for a while. You will get from this film that the so-called "hunger games" pit a number of teenagers against each other in a to-the-death battle. The winner gets fame and fortune and an easy life, exempt from ever being forced to fight to the death again. Why they have to do this? Who knows.
We quickly meet Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), winners of the 74th Annual Hunger Games, who beginning a Victory Tour of all the other Districts of the country of Panem -- essentially it's an in-you-face (I killed your champion) tour -- which is tacky enough even if you have no idea why these "Hunger Games" exist in the first place. If you haven't read the books or seen the first film, you never will.
It is a mark of really good writing that, even in a sequel, the big story can be summed up in one line of dialog or so, and then the new stories can take center stage. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire stumbles towards something that we guess means an eventual story of political revolution -- the Capitol District is too rich and the only other District we see is dirt poor that we rely on the muttering of this country's President Snow (Donald Sutherland) to fill us in about how Katniss is becoming a hero to the messy under class; that she has to be taken down. Taking her down introduces the new gamesmaster Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who convinces the President that the best way to take down the new hero is to corrupt her with all the wealth that comes with Victory. Or, at least, to make the dirt poor underclasses think she has become corrupt.
It's a great idea, except that it has absolutely nothing to do with anything else that happens in this film. Peeta feels guilty for taking the lives of the other competitors. Katniss just wants to go home to be with her real-life boyfriend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), and that's about all there is . . . until the President decides that the best way to eliminate Kat is to make all the surviving winners of the past hunger Games fight it out one more time, on the Games' 75th anniversary. It is called a "Quell" for some reason.
The winners, as you may expect, are none too happy about this. And while there is one elderly victor weighing down the kiddies, some of the more prominent let-us-say middle aged winners are noticeably absent from being put through the wringer one more time. That would be you, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) . . . who is more than able to sneak help to our heroine.
The only story that comes close to holding together is the forced romance of Kat and Peeta, which is actually developed in a very interesting way. We won't tell since it may be the most creative part of the entire film. The bit of story that seems to emerge from the wreck that was the first movie is dashed when . . . no, that would entail telling more about how this film really concludes, and we'll not spill that. It makes very little sense -- to us -- but we suspect that once the final two films are done, the whole mess will make sense as a whole. That, though, is a terrible reason to be spending up to fifteen bucks for a first run show.
It would be very easy to <sigh> and write that yours Cranky is just "too old" for this series. No, we're not as long as a film's story has a beginning, middle and end -- at least for something within the over-arcing story of the four-part Trilogy, whatever it may be. There's a better story to be followed in this installment. It didn't keep our crowd from groaning at film's end. (And we disagree with that. It isn't a surprise that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is just the middle of something much, much bigger.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, he would have paid . . .
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a disposable dateflick.
The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995 - 2017 by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, ™ their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award™(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.