Thursday, November 21, 2013


The following images are not by me for they are officially released by Universal Studios

Review By:
G.P. Manalo

Directed by:
Francis Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence
Josh Hutcherson
Donald Sutherland

Of all the Young Adult novel adaptations, the film adaptation of Suzanne Collin's best-selling Hunger Games series feels different among them (because the love triangle doesn't beat you in the head like most YA novel adaptations do) , it is pretty rare to have success out of a property like the Hunger Games when it is living in a world of a male dominant industry (and when they do have a woman as the lead, she is not the strongest *cough* Twilight *cough*). One of 2012’s biggest surprises was the young-adult novel adaptation of Suzanne Collin’s “The Hunger Games” being a worldwide hit, as it impressed both fans and non-fans of the novel combining over $700M worldwide, though a vast majority still hunger for something more out of the first film. With Gary Ross out of the director’s chair and I am Legend’s Francis Lawrence in, the second instalment of the mega-hit franchise takes a huge upgrade under his helm as it takes off the kid gloves and start doing serious business.

After the events of the first film, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) could never have been more grateful for surviving the 74th Hunger Games after pulling off a Romeo and Juliet-esque stunt and now they must go through a Victory Tour and all of their problems will be done. But what they didn’t know was that their so-called “stunt” has inspired Panem to revolutionize against the Capitol and Katniss becoming their symbol of hope. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is displeased with the idea of a revolution. As much as Snow wants to kill her, he does not want a martyr. After listening to the advice of the new gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) President Snow announced that the 75th year of the games will be “different” as it becomes an “all-star” game where the tributes will be existing victors as they are pitted together once again in the arena for a free-for-all killing spree; Katniss and Peeta found themselves fighting for their lives once again.

This film is a huge improvement of its predecessor. When I say that this movie “take off the kid gloves” (compared to the last film), I really mean it. It’s amazing how the franchise has become more mature as it goes on. This film has less laughs, less mushiness (the romance being more believable than the last film), and goes on a more a darker route. Under the helm of Francis Lawrence he gives the film a more emotional environment, giving more emphasis to the depressing reality of living in a world like Panem. In the first half of the film, it felt like it was some sort of political message to the world we are currently living in. It has a lot to say about how the media are more of a device to distract the masses in seeing the reality they are living in with the private lives of people more famous than them and how manipulative the totalitarian government really is but also how far they can go to retain their power as it gives emphasis on the dystopian theme of both the films and the novels. 

In early reviews, most critics have compared this to The Empire Strikes Back (also known as Star Wars Episode V, just so you know). This being a stronger film than the first one, and some other comparisons such as the big threat, one of the themes of the film (and the book it is based on) is knowing who the real enemy is, meaning the enemies in the games aren't going to be developed more than they were in the first film and instead give the screen time to the real enemy, The Empire The Capitol. Like in the original Star Wars trilogy from The Star Wars (Episode IV), they made you be aware of the threat like them exists but it wasn't until the second film where they really go on full force and start getting their hands dirty. The Capitol (the government atleast) aren’t screwing around anymore, in this film they feel like they’re Nazis; they just go in to houses destroying their belongings, gunning and beating people down unfairly. 

Not to mention the tone does get a bit darker, but not the kind where it feels  "in your face" like most people would call "Nolan knockoffs". The dark tone does benefit for the film's storytelling. The first film was a clunky one but after seeing this movie I’ve learned to appreciate the first one quite a bit because of this film and it is because I get to understand the underlining story more in this film. The first film builds up a lot of things; dropping hints of what’s to come for the future films, building up the world and the list goes on. Catching Fire continues to flesh out the world of Panem, thanks to a bigger budget; the film’s special effects gives it that sci-fi feel that feels absent for the most part of the last film.

The last film was entitled The Hunger Games but ironically that part of the film was the most underwhelming part despite making the build up from the start feel like false advertising towards the end. As I went out of the film, I left the film saying that the games were the best part of the film.  Like what Haymitch said in this movie “Last year’s games was child’s play” and it does show in this film. The games in this movie are bigger and better in this film (in both design and how it will be played), since they’re gonna kill adults now, that means no more “shaky cam” which is another plus from me. Right from the part when Katniss is about to rise to the game floor, my heart was just pulsating because you know that shit is about to go down, and it never stops from the start as every step of the way is another nightmare waiting for them.

Fans of the book will be happy that this film stays true to the source material, as a reader of the books, I’d say that this film is 95% accurate to the book because it does leave a couple of key elements from the book (both having something to do with Haymitch and District 13). As the film ends, mentioning that one “thing” made one part of that ending feels abrupt because it wasn’t properly built up. Granted, this is just a minor complaint. Nonetheless they were still able to tell a perfectly paced adaptation (honestly, it never felt like I was there for 2 hours and 40 minutes).

The performances are also better in this film (not saying the performances in the last film aren’t great at all). Jennifer Lawrence continues to impress me in every film she is in proving that she is not only owning the role of Katniss Everdeen but also being one of the best actresses of this generation. Her character as the focal point of the film is the reason why The Hunger Games franchise is different than other young adult novels and it is that her character is not overbearing. The writing for this film doesn’t beat you in the head that “hey, look at how strong this female character is!”. Her performance brings Katniss’s character to life even more; sure she shoots arrows as perfect as Legolas, but she’s not really that tough as nails type, in performance she shows that she is indeed human and vulnerable, doing everything to protect the ones she holds dearly. The most noticeable improvement was Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, he left me a bad taste in my mouth in the last film, I remember saying that he is in fact replaceable. After seeing him in this movie, I’d take it all back. The script was able to give him more charisma and charm, making him relevant to the storyline and showing what he is capable of as a character, not to mention he shared a better yet believable chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss.

The film has an even bigger cast, having both old and new faces gracing the screen. the one who really stands out among the  cast is the big bad Donald Sutherland. Donald Sutherland as President Snow is illustrated more as the big villain in this movie and he has that sinister presence that felt absent in the last movie and I'm glad they gave him more to do in this film. Woody Harrelson still stands out in most scenes, though I do wish he was developed a bit more, Elizabeth Banks has a bit more to do than going “la-di-da” in the background (which I’m glad because Effie just disappeared in the book and never mentioned again), Lenny Kravitz was good for the little time he had, Liam Hemsworth feels like he took the back seat in the first half of the film making the love triangle around Peeta and Gale feel clunky, while Stanley Tucci continues to steal the show. Among the new faces who did stand out was Sam Clafin as fan-favorite character Finnick Odair. I was very much skeptical at first about the casting choice for him at first, Sam Clafin actually owns the role, he is exactly the way i pictured him to be as i read the book. Others who did stand out and spot-on were Jena Malone’s (whom i'm glad they put her in a good movie) Johanna, and Jeffrey Wright's (who i thought was a deep voiced David Cross at first) Beetee.

In the end, The Hunger Games - Catching Fire is the best film in the series so far and it is definitely the "Empire Strikes Back" of the series, Director Francis Lawrence has given the series a better direction. The film is packed with suspenseful action that will truly start your heart racing as Katniss rise above to the arena, a good social and political commentary about our easily distracted society we are currently living in, great performances and a better look at the world of Panem. Granted, I still think most things in the first half feels rushed and some key elements from the book were left out but that's just me nit-picking and i'd leave that as a minor complaint. I highly recommend you see this movie, if you are a fan of the series you will definitely love this movie as it is accurate to the books this time even if you haven't read the books and enjoyed the movies you will definitely enjoy it nonetheless. But those who thought that the last film was either lacking or terrible, i'd suggest you give this film another chance and see this, surely this film could change your mind about the franchise.




4.5/5 - FOR THE WIN!

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