The first sequel to teen sci-fi adventure hit The Hunger Games – there’s Mockingjay Parts I and II to finish the story – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire picks up right where the first movie left off.
In the grim America of the future, Katniss (Lawrence) has survived the Hunger Games where selected kids are pitted against each other in battles to the death until there is only one left standing, and is on a victory tour of the dozen dirt-poor districts that surround the obscenely wealthy Capital.
When murmurings of a possible uprising reach the ears of the calculating President Snow (Donald Sutherland, acting so evil you expect him to twirl his moustache), he decides the best way to quell any rebellion before it begins is to round up all the former victors (some, especially Katniss, whom he suspects are inspiring the people to have hope) and pit them against each other in a special anniversary Hunger Games. So Katniss – and Peeta (Hutcherson), the possible love interest she saved in the previous Games – are back in the deadly arena once more.
While the script assumes everyone watching Catching Fire has seen (and remembers) what happened in the first movie, it still takes a lot of slow preamble before any action happens on the screen. The tour of the districts and Katniss and Peeta’s training is a little dull, but once they are transported to the battle dome that contains a jungle arena filled with poisonous gas, rabid baboons and the other contestants, things pick up considerably.
Lawrence, is once again mesmerising as Katniss, both endearingly human and enjoyably tough cookie, and there is some nice support from Woody Harrelson (as former winner Haymitch), Stanley Tucci (as OTT presenter Caesar), Elizabeth Banks (as Katniss’s bizarrely-dressed escort Effie) and Liam Hemsworth (Katniss’s childhood friend Gale). The new characters are interesting, too, especially super-clever couple Beetee and Wiress (Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer), with the only weak link being a rather bland Hutcherson who doesn’t convince as the third part of the supposed Gale/Katniss/Peeta love triangle.
You could argue that this is just a splashier, flashier and more expensive retread of the first movie – and it is – and the ending is a bit of an anti-climax (it does keep to the book, however) but thanks to a taut, fast-paced final third, it’s still action-packed enough to make you yearn for the final two movies in the saga.
Is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
While there are no really scary moments, this movie does have violence throughout. Some may find the baboon attack scary.
Please note that while the film is classified 12A (which means kids under the age of 12 can see it with an adult) in the UK, it is not suitable for children under the age of 12 due to the violence in the movie.
The violence includes a scene showing Gale being whipped (and the resultant wounds), and an old man is seen being dragged away. He is shot but we only hear this and do not see it.