Lene Trunjer Petersen
The highly anticipated sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is an impressive film that demonstrates what all the new teen-series productions should do – produce stories with substance and excellent actors.
Admittedly, I haven’t read Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. Even so, the fist film’s dystopian setting impressed me and the sequel is even darker. I love how the films toy with our growing need for reality TV, making me question whether or not I myself participate in this pop-cultural phenomenon, just by watching The Hunger Games. Inside the arena, combatants kill each other in a vicious manner, but I still watch.
Catching Fire picks up where The Hunger Games ended. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are back in District 12 awaiting their Victor’s Tour. Haunted by nightmares from being in the arena, Katniss must face the consequences of her and Peeta’s supposed love story.
Before going on their tour, however, Katniss has a surprising meeting with President Snow (Donald Sutherland). He warns her that her actions in the arena have inspired revolutionary ideas, which he, of course, is not interested in. The whole idea of the Hunger Games is to keep the masses under control. If Katniss does not play her part as ‘lovesick’ tribute, President Snow will eradicate District 12.
Naturally, the Victor’s Tour is not a success and the new game master suggests a different approach to the 75th Annual Hunger Games, referred to as The Quarter Quell. Instead of finding new tributes, President Snow summons previous winners in the hope that Katniss will die in the arena.
Back in the Capital, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) tells Katniss and Peeta that the arena is not a “kids game” anymore, and the previous winners are definitely stronger and more ambitious than the opponents they faced before.
At the official presentation of the tributes, they demonstrate their aversion to the games, just as Peeta attempts to get Katniss out by telling everyone that she is pregnant. Nevertheless, the next day they all find themselves in a new arena, a stunning setting shot in Hawaii.
It is hard not to be impressed by 23-year-old Jennifer Lawrence, who acts with an intensity that jumps right out of the screen and lingers in your thoughts for days. Lawrence portrays Katniss with a wide range of emotions that makes her character authentic and convincing. Everybody wants to use Katniss, whether it is as a face for or against the revolution, but all she really wants is to protect her family.
It must be difficult for Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who in the first film seemed to be nothing more than a supporting character. But I must admit that Peeta has found his own voice in Catching Fire. He is not a confused kid anymore, but has figured out what his strengths are, and he seems to be the one who keeps Katniss focused in the game. Hutcherson is definitely playing up to Lawrence and the two of them make an excellent tribute couple, with lots of problems to work out.
Catching Fire exceeds The Hunger Games and it is not a typical teen-film. It debates such themes as revolution, government control, torture and oppression, which are all mingled with a realty show, and it shows how hope can light up even a dark, apocalyptic world like Panem.