The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the sequel, of course, to The Hunger Games, based on the second book in the trilogy. It stars the same folks as before (Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland) and adds Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffery Wright, Sam Clafin, Jena Malone, and Lynn Cohen.
Some time after the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Hutcherson) are trying to adjust to be celebrities forever, and also having PTSD. Their role, as their mentor Haymich (Harrelson) puts it, is to be a distraction, forever, so that people don't rebel. Trouble is, President Snow (Sutherland) views their little stunt at the end of the Games (in which they threatened to die rather than kill each other) as exactly what it was - an act of defiance, and now the people are rebelling.
This being the year of the 75th Hunger Games, the powers that be announce a Quarter Quell (special games!), in which the tributes are all former victors. And these victors are fucked up individuals - they're all people who killed a lot of other people, and Katniss is advised to make allies. She chooses the brilliant Beetee (Wright), and Haymich hooks her up with the young and skilled Finnick (Clafin) and his elderly, mute friend Mags (Cohen), and into the arena they go. Joana Mason (Malone), unhinged and violent, joins them as well, and they kill off the Careers fairly easily...
But the Games are small potatoes. The Gamemaster (Hoffman) is a rebel, and rigs it to get Katniss, now recognized as the face of the revolution, out. She escapes with Finnick and Haymich, and learns that Peeta and Joana and in the capitol, captured. And, her home district has been razed (though her mother, sister, and boyfriend Gale [Hemsworth] escaped).
Which sets us up for Mockingjay, opening soon!
Catching Fire serves as a nice bridge for the story. It's good, but long, and I kind of feel like they stayed on the first half too long (setting up how shitty things are in Panem) at the expense of making the Games feel rushed and not letting us get to know the other tributes. But it's a minor thing. Hoffman and Sutherland both turn in great performances, and Lawrence is amazing as usual. It's interesting to see the pain and obvious damage that all the tributes have suffered - as Haymich mentions, no one wins the Games, though some survive.
It's hard to view middle movies like this in context without seeing the whole thing, and I'm sure I'll be reviewing Mockingjay in a year or so, so here's hoping!
My grade: A-
Rewatch value: Low
Next Up: The Hunt for the Red October