Jennifer Lawrence returns to familiar territory with part two of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. This film picks up just after Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) have returned home to the district as victors of the The Hunger Games. The district is still swimming in poverty and despair and just because Katniss and Peeta have won does not mean that life in their district will get better. Quite the opposite, seems to be the case. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) pays Katniss a visit and basically tells her that she and Peeta will go on a ‘victory’ tour to the other districts and tout the greatness of Panem and the centralized government that rules them all with an iron fist. He tells her she had better ‘sell’ it convincingly or else there will be DIRE consequences and part of this includes Katniss and Peeta being lovers. While Peeta might feel that way, Katniss has eyes for a man in her district, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), but must keep it a secret. Not only does the the ‘victory’ tour not go well but the two victors inadvertently spark riots that have costly repercussions. This sets up the parts three and four which are coming in the next year or two.
I loved the first Hunger Games film. It was brutal and its depiction of a dystopian future was scarily effective. The acting was terrific and overall the film was a huge critical and box office success. Now Catching Fire, has a different director and a new screen writing team, and although I did not enjoy it as much as the first film, Catching Fire has a lot of things going for it that I did enjoy. Most notably is Jennifer Lawrence who is not only easy on the eyes but she can act. Her Katniss is tortured by what happened in The Hunger Games. So much so that she has nightmares and sees herself still shooting arrows into young adults when she really is only shooting at wild turkeys. Lawrence does a good job of convincing me she is damaged, inside and out and I truly felt sorry for her character. She is the selling point of these films and it is a good thing she can really act. This time around there is a new Hunger Games competition so she and Peeta must make some allies so they can survive in the latest games. This time around they are plopped into a jungle that is timed by a centralized clock made of water. As time passes there is a new challenge for the contestants while the still battle to the death with others in the game. It is a clever gimmick and it works. Catching Fire has some great action sequences whether they are battling a poisonous fog or rabid monkeys and even each other. The entire cast is put to good use and this time around it includes Jeffery Wright, Jenna Malone and the late Phillip Seymore Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, the creator of the new competition. The original cast is all back with Elizabeth Banks as Effie, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, Stanley Tucci the propagandist-in-chief, Ceasar Flickerman and Lenny Kravitz is back as Cinna, the wardrobe designer that makes Katniss glow.