Once again, buy your popcorn and that extra large coke - you are going to need them. Two hours and twenty six minutes is a long time to sit in one place - well that is unless you are totally wrapped up in a story. First - if you haven't seen the first part of the Hunger Games Trilogy, rent it or download it before you see this film, otherwise you will be loss from the get go.
The first film left us with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) having saved Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) in the 74th Hunger Games by sheer skill and wit - having threatened suicide of two lovers on TV shown live across the districts, if both their lives were not spared. Having emerged from the games alive, this victory afforded their families a life out of poverty in the "Victor's Village". And, the only question that we left the theater with was: will Katniss choose Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) her longtime friend as her beau or Peeta. The later being the relationship that was part of the charade that allowed them to escape the Hunger Games alive, but then soon became a little more real than Katniss had imagined. But, I digress.
Catching Fire opens with the love triangle smoldering, and the audience (at least those who had not read the trilogy) wondering which way Katniss's heart would go. The Victor's Tour Katniss and Peeta must take visiting all 11 other districts only begs that question more. When President Snow fears Katniss's national heroism may strengthen the embers of revolution within the Districts against the Capitol, he knows she must be stopped. A new character, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) comes into the picture as the new "Games Master".
Suddenly all the living victors from each district are thrown back into a pool for the 3rd Quarter Quell (75th) Games and Katniss, once again, finds herself in the arena. No spoiler here, all of this is in the trailers, if you have seen any.
The costumes are even more over the top. Ceasar (Stanley Tucci), the cheesy Show Host, and Effie (Elizabeth Banks), the Victor's guide (always dressed somewhere between the Queens Court in Alice in Wonderland and Martha May Whovier from The Grinch, return in their memorable roles. And, of course you have Woddy Harrelson's character, Haymitch Abernathy, the hard drinking, dedicated strategist who aids Katniss and Peeta in preparing for the games.The games and the arena are more challenging than before and alliances are key to survival.
When the movie ended, my DH turned to me and said,"You know when you come to the movies and sit through two and a half hours, you want an ending." Well, I felt a little more satisfied, perhaps because I have already read the trilogy and know what the third book, "Mockingjay" holds in store. However, for those who have not, the movie ends as if the film paused for a commercial break at a pivotal moment. Many may feel like that Friday afternoon episode on their soap opera when the male lead asks the female lead, "Just what do you mean by 'I really don't care'?". The screen goes dark, the credits start rolling, and the music begins.
Having read the books, trust me: stay tuned. I felt the film stayed true to the story. The acting was excellent. The dull soot and grayness of the districts brought on a feeling of even more despair as juxtaposed to Kodachrome colors and opulence of the Capitol. Every time the camera panned in on a close up of Jennifer Lawrence's eyes one could see the emotion she felt, the unfairness of it all. Her countenance showed the weight of the responsibility resting on her. Hiding honesty was not one of Katniss's strong suits.
As the box office records show, this movie is a block buster, and for good reason. It is well made, well cast, well acted, and the story follows the book - a novel idea (no pun intended).