Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Review

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Review

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” begins as Katniss Everdeen has returned home after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Only winning means that they must turn right around to leave their family and close friends again to go on a promotional tour or as they refer to  it a "Victor's Tour" throughout all of the districts to promote the virtues of their way of life at the forceful behest of President Snow.

But President Snow realizes that Katniss is becoming an unsettling threat to the order of things as she grows more and more symbolically a source of national pride and maybe more so a source of national hope for the working class to rise up to rebel. So President Snow decides to have a new game called the 75th Annual Hunger Games - The Quarter Quell, with his diabolically strategy of forcing Katniss to fight again only this time with all of the previous victors with the surreptitious plot of having her eventually killed during the game in order to squash her popularity.

So what is my take on this sequel? Well of course we find our brave heroine Katniss Everdeen leading the thrust into another conundrum of a seemingly no win cat and mouse combat game to the death. Apparently in this installment however they forgot to make food reward an issue. Still I can only presume the survivor’s reward would be in the form of getting to eat Thanksgiving Dinner everyday for the rest of their life, but absolutely no giblet gravy though, they didn’t work that hard.

Now, if you detect already a note of cynicism on my part I apologize, as I did find the sequel pretty much what I expected which was 2 plus hours of by the book decent entertainment. And while it has some interesting plot points and a few interesting chases, I realize midway through this effort unlike its original this one was lacking an ingredient (or two).

While Hunger 2 never bored me, I did however keep asking myself what is it that makes this effort not as good as the first? Did they not do as good a job of showing how sadistic people can be when they have absolute power? Not as good of a job showing how an oppressed people can stand to be oppressed only just so long? Not showcasing more of Jennifer Lawrence’s kinetic on screen presence. FYI, I was sold on her many movies ago, especially her Oscar winning performance “Silver Linings Playbook”. So what I am to make of what clearly will be a minimum of a 4 film franchise going forward?

Yes, Hunger 2 is a well intentioned piece of movie making, but after watching it for 2 -1/2 hours, which was way too long for this somewhat thin plot, the whole viewing experience seemed like a long soulless blur, largely self inflected with its propensity to appear to be making it up with twists and turns as you go along. Its story’s construction and execution made the film feel less like something that was riveting and suspenseful at each turn and more like an intellectual obstacle course of remembering previous plot and dialogue connections from one scene to the next.

The Director Francis Lawrence awarded with a bigger budget this time out, seemed to not have placed enough emphasis on keeping visceral continuity throughout the film. Instead, I saw too much infatuation with brighter lights, gaudy pageantry, brilliant colors and a tropical setting as the key story variables to holding our attentions. And it is with this glaring proclivity of relying on the visual to push the story made the film feel at times a bit flat. It was like watching someone throwing up plot ideas up on the screen completely out of the blue hoping they work, especially during the back half of the film. At one point during some hectic fight sequences I thought to myself that I would not have been at all surprised next to see Rapper Jay Z come riding out of the woods on a white unicorn horse dressed like Yoda with his light saber out while singing “Ride or Die”.

Still, the film is not boring as it does have entertainment value. What it is not however is a very exciting entertaining film to watch. Its only strong suit as I saw it was an imaginative looking set and costumes design, a rather intriguing vision of a Fascist future and a decent enough story development with good acting to make it all work well just enough.

3 – 1/4 Stars 

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