By Katie Swinton
It may be blasphemous, but it needs to be said—the movie “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is better than the book. Suzanne Collins’ second installment of her popular series throws Katniss and Peeta back into the Hunger Games alongside other former victors in the Capitol’s attempt to quell the resistance spreading throughout the 12 districts of Panem.
Katniss Everdeen, played by the extremely popular and loveable Jennifer Lawrence, acts as the reluctant hero who fueled this rebellion through her defiant act in the previous Games. Lawrence, to no surprise, once again perfectly portrays the cold and obstinate Katniss.
Josh Hutcherson plays Peeta Mellark, whose chemistry with Lawrence appears much stronger in interviews off-camera than in the actual movie. Peeta remains fairly unhelpful, albeit endearing, throughout the entire Games.
The strength in the movie, however, lies in the auxiliary characters, as it is really their actions that drive Katniss’ success.
A new character, District Four’s champion, Finnick Odair easily steals the spotlight with his chiseled abs and winning smile. Sam Claflin masterfully captures Finnick’s arrogant and confident swagger while simultaneously understanding his considerably tormented and complicated past. He proves himself as a faithful ally as he leads Katniss and Peeta through the skillfully crafted Games.
Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) also emerges as a strong character from her initial appearance in a comical scene in which she strips down in front Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch. Her sass and her sarcasm provide much needed comic relief in a fairly dark film. Her outbursts and rants also add an important dynamic to the fight against the Capitol.
Stanley Tucci returns with his energetic flair and overzealous demeanor as Caesar Flickerman. His dramatic portrayal of a talk show host with his flashy smile leaves the audience with no other option but to laugh at the absurdity.
Woody Harrelson plays the drunk but wise guardian, Haymitch Abernathy, and continues to look out for Katniss and Peeta. In this movie, he undertakes a more serious role, providing perspective and initiative on the fight against the Capitol.
Donald Sutherland plays the villainous President Snow who terrorizes Katniss in his attempts to destroy her image as the hope-inspiring rebel.
His aggressive totalitarianism is complimented by the new Games-Maker, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who aims to manipulate Katniss rather than solely destroy her. Plutarch proves himself as a much craftier and cleverer Games-Maker than Seneca Crane.
Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), District 12’s Capitol representative, and her crazy fashion work cohesively within the dynamic between Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch. The characters’ dramatically different personalities make a rather ragtag team but one worth rooting for.
Also of note, Lenny Kravitz plays the cool and stylish Cinna who causes quite a scene with his provocative fashion designs, encouraging Katniss’ reputation as the girl on fire.
Katniss is truly a product of those around her. Although she resists her involvement in the rebellion, she cannot avoid her role as ideological leader. At the end of the film, Panem is at the beginning stages of a revolution, leaving viewers hungry for more.
The “Hunger Games” saga is only halfway finished as the final book “Mockingjay” will, of course, be split into two films. However, the series continues to become darker and will likely make a fairly depressing finale of this popular series.
For a more in depth analysis of the role of Peeta and Gale in the film, please reference The Onion’s review of “Catching Fire.”