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October 20, 2016

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Review

by Zahir

 

catching_fire_lead_2-175x150I’m just going to come out and say it – I really despised the firstHunger Games movie. It was possibly the most excruciating two hours I have ever spent in a cinema, although there are mitigating circumstances – the film coincided with the worst (and only) migraine I have ever had. As a result, the constant use of shaky-cam, aggressive surround-sound and generally epilepsy-inducing sequences of light and noise made for an experience that I imagine was pretty close to unanaesthetised cranial surgery.

However, my own ill health should not be enough to condemn a series, so I went into The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with a relatively open mind, and for the most part, was pleasantly surprised. The action is less reliant on shaky-cam now, and there is generally less time devoted to the actual “hunger games” section of the film this time around. The strong point of both films is the attention to detail in the creation of a society and culture, so it was nice to see more screen time devoted to it.

The action sequences are, of course, unavoidable. Being targeted squarely at a mid-teen audience, a 12A rating was absolutely necessary for the film to be a financial success. It is a credit to the film’s creators that it includes scenes of suffocation, drowning, throat-ripping, skin-blistering, public execution, public whipping, more public execution, child-murder and nudity while still obtaining the 12A rating. Unfortunately, the necessary reliance on quick-cutaway shots from the deaths meant that some scenes lacked the emotional punch that would have been possible with a higher age rating.

untitled-300x222The film’s world-building is fantastic, and its action scenes are generally acceptable. The acting is much more of a mixed bag. Jennifer Lawrence (as Katniss Everdeen) is a relatively competent

actor, although her role consists pretty much entirely of pouting grumpily and being indecisive. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is a character that has such a perfect union of clichéd lines and awful acting that he becomes almost charming in his incompetency.

The adult actors, on the other hand, are almost flawless. Donald Sutherland pulls off a dictator who manages to be simultaneously friendly, merciless, fatherly and sadistic.  Philip Seymour Hoffman pulls off yet another fantastically naturalistic performance. Lenny Kravitz is, once again, surprisingly good, and Woody Harrelson manages to walk the line between tragic and comic character with surprising ease.

Overall, this is a worthwhile film. Some awkward acting, clichéd dialogue and the odd bit of creaky CGI does little to detract from the fantastic effort that has been put into the creation of an entire society, structure and culture.

One final piece of advice: try and choose a showing during a school day, to avoid the experience I had. Three rows of unaccompanied children between the ages of 10 and 14, clapping, screaming, giggling, chatting, throwing popcorn and running in and out of the cinema every five minutes for a break. During the last half of the film I became increasingly convinced that I had been granted a glance at what eternal damnation must feel like.

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