All but gone are the days of the gentle ‘tween’ drama, with films following this dated tone suffering as a result at the box office. Instead recent ‘tween’ releases have tended to lean more towards hard-hitting and realistic narratives rather than masculine focused tear jerking sob stories. Debatably starting this new trend, the new blockbuster franchise of The Hunger Games has quickly built a mass following after just two film releases, and deservedly so as the 2nd instalment in the franchise is surprisingly rich and fulfilling, pandering not only to young audiences.
Straight off the ending of the first film, we follow Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in her victory tour of the districts after she and her ‘lover’ Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) defied the government, both winning the games in an act of rebellion. Now however they have inadvertently sparked revolution in the districts as they become the capitols number one targets. Suffering from a lack of contextual information the first Hunger Games only really became interesting, bringing themes of morality and a corrupt government, once the games had begun. Its sequel couldn’t be further from this as Catching Fire truly does what a sequel should, building on the first films success and adding a stronger narrative and backstory to give the first film and subsequent releases even more meaning. This works to excellent effect the where the scenes outside the games become surprisingly more intense than when the protagonist finally goes back inside the games as the fleshed out and sinister society becomes increasingly more active and rebellious.
This isn’t to say the games are boring, which is quite far from the truth, alike the first film the games prove to be hugely creative and imaginative building a mini-world where literally anything can happen and is down to the hands of the sinister ‘game makers’. That said however the games are certainly the weakest part of this film as they bring up and highlight the majority of the films issues. The moment Katniss steps foot into the games an odd air of self-importance engulfs the script as it becomes carried away in its own fantasy world where although anything is possible, laws of physics are also broken. Furthermore the more forcibly emotional world of the games brings out the worst in the script which up to this point in the film was exceptional, letting itself down with whimsical lines of dialogue which seem fitting only in a tween ‘rom-com’.
As previously mentioned however the long length of running time before the games is hugely engrossing as the games themselves are all but forgotten, downplayed in favour for a far more realised narrative. This narrative is played out in a world which is established in the first film, but far more explored in the sequel from the sadistic and stylistic dictatorship to the harsh yet natural lands of district 12, the world of the hunger games, despite its cruelty is really quite beautiful. For this reason the narrative takes a huge step up suddenly becoming all the more intriguing and fascinating, only to discover that its controlled by the truly sinister dictator, President Snow, played excellently by Donald Sutherland. This allows us as the audience to immediately get behind the films protagonist and band of allies, feeling their sadness as well as their victories as the film progresses. New characters to the franchise state their claim nicely with Finnick Odair, played by Sam Clafin, as well as Beetee, played by Jeffery Wright, both being acted with gusto to create characters of distinct personalities and likeability. The acting performance of Jennifer Lawrence however still proves to outdo the (still shining) rest, showing great depth in a character of perceived subtlety, providing emotional realism behind every scene, her enthusiasm grips you into the film and makes you believe the world as a reality.
The Hunger Games: Catching fire is a huge step forward, not only for blockbusters but also for young adult films in general, providing an intelligent story whilst showcasing an amazing world of colour and imagination. Delving far into its narrative to touch on strong themes of morals, The Hunger Games: Catching fire is one of the best blockbusters to come out of Hollywood for a very long time, differentiating itself from its competitors with a brave narrative which challenges audiences and never insults them.
8.5/10- Hugely involving and genuinely terrifying, Hollywood might finally be realising the benefits of taking risks.