I don’t get it. This film has been widely and wildly praised and I just don’t get it. I quite liked the first film, although it was a good half an hour too long, With some good editing it could have been a rip-roaring young-adult thriller, but instead it was ponderous and yet still lacked a little context.
This second film suffers from the same kind of issues, but added to that, it also comes across as a cover version of the first film. In the first film, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark were chosen from their sector of the new world order’s version of America to be representatives in The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are a fight to the death between 24 teenagers from the 12 different sectors. Last one alive, lives on with immunity. It’s like Battle Royale, but with a weak romance instead of the chutzpah to follow through on the concept. So, when we left them, Katniss and Peeta and faked a relationship on national TV in order that they both might be saved. In Catching Fire, we meet them touring the provinces and living the lie but President Snow (Donald Sutherland, sleepwalking through the role of one of the most tedious villains around) sees a threat in Katniss and wants her done away with. For some reason he doesn’t just arrange for the train that carries her around to crash, but instead sets up a “QuarterQuell” – a 25th anniversary Hunger Games in which all surviving winners head back into the dome and only one can survive.
So we head back into the games, but this time, instead of a bunch of obnoxious teens, we’re also given a couple of old people to work with too. Now, the problem is that more than half the film is needed* to set this up and get them back into the games. Considering so little plot is dealt with it’s unfathomable that it should take so long on the screen. Then, realising that the they’ve already done the ‘kids killing other kids’ bit once, the games quickly dispense with that bit, and President Snow, via Games’ designer Plutarch Heavensbee (apparently that’s a name, and he’s played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman who kinda makes it seem like a paycheck role), unleashes some surprises. These surprises made me laugh out loud. They are ridiculous and the way they’re handled made them seem rather desperate. When a reveal comes they make a little more sense, but that just makes you think that the writing and directing could have done a better job.
Jennifer Lawrence does a very good job at trying to hold it all together. I’m a big fan of hers, but it’s just a shame she’s attached to all of this and can’t go off and make more interesting stuff.
Film length: 2hrs 26 minutes – Feels like: 3 hrs
*That much time is not needed