Odds in Favor of ‘Catching Fire’

Taylor Weik: 3, 2, 1. The 75th annual Hunger Games begins and the 24 tributes dive into the water, each scrambling to make it to land before the other grabs hold of a spear or an axe and ends it all. Our hearts thump in time to the beats of the countdown, but this time, we have more to be anxious about. This time, we feel a growing unrest in the districts watching the games and desperation from those in the Capitol who are trying to suppress it.

To call it a sequel or “The Hunger Games 2” would be inappropriate. This is “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” and while there is yet another fight to the death that Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mallark must participate in, the stakes are so much higher now that the District 12 duo’s disobedience has sparked an uprising all across Panem.

Kyle Weik: In terms of how the movie stays true to the book, “Catching Fire” soars. This is one of the few book-to-screen adaptations I have seen that has accurately portrayed what I envisioned from the book. The layout of the new arena was one part of the movie that truly impressed. With torrents of water whirling about the tributes and moving rock platforms that symbolized the hands of a clock, every hour producing deadly new obstacles, the arena was pure genius in terms of its cinematography.

Even the depiction of the past victors, like the lethal siblings, Cashmere and Gloss, or the fearsome Enobaria, was spot on. The overall translation from my imagination to on-screen was uncanny, further proof of the brilliant direction by Francis Lawrence. One aspect from the book that I felt was much needed in the film itself was more focus on Katniss and Peeta and their interactions with the other tributes. It would have been nice to see more of the dynamics between the characters and how the fact that they all won the Hunger Games at one point in time affected their relationships.

TW: While Jennifer Lawrence continues to do an outstanding job at embodying the complex, fearful and strong Katniss –– “The Girl On Fire” –– “Catching Fire” brings in a whole new cast of past Hunger Games victors with two big standouts: Finnick Odair from District 4 and Johanna Mason from District 7.

As someone who credits Finnick Odair as one of her favorite fictional characters, I was, of course, a bit doubtful whether or not Sam Claflin could bring the devilishly handsome spearman from the fishing district to life. But Claflin accomplished much more than sitting pretty in a skirt made from fishing nets; he captured the vulnerability of Finnick. His panicked expression in the arena when he hears his lover’s tortured screams shows audiences the chink in Finnick’s armor; he may talk big, but his heart is even bigger.

Jena Malone adds character to the lethal Johanna Mason, which I appreciated. Suzanne Collins paints Johanna as a fierce competitor in the arena and gives her an almost “I don’t care” attitude. But through her almost desperate actions and one sobering comment made during the games –– “They can’t hurt me. I’m not like the rest of you. There’s no one left I love” –– Malone humanizes Johanna and proves that she’s not psychotic; she’s broken.

KW: What really anchored the entire movie was the stunning and engaging Jennifer Lawrence. Her presence onscreen was intense, raw and most importantly, believable. Every moment of despair and grief at any mention of Rue and every spark of defiance toward President Snow was reflected in her eyes. Her dedication to the true representation of the strong and bold Katniss Everdeen was evident in her flawless performance as “the Girl on Fire.”

Her counterpart, Josh Hutcherson, who plays Peeta Mellark, was also quite commendable. Hutcherson embodies the sweet and compassionate baker boy who fell in love. His adoring glances at Katniss and charismatic disposition are genuine and make the audience believe in the star-crossed lovers.

It’s hard to believe that the sequel to “The Hunger Games” could match, or even surpass the bar it set, but “Catching Fire” did exactly that. The brilliant cast and vision of the director guided the film and established it not only as the most successful franchise, but sequel ever to be released. Fans should take it to heart when I say this: this second installment in the trilogy will blow your mind and make you quiver in anticipation for the final film, knowing without a doubt, it will not disappoint.