The Hunger Games : Catching Fire is a bonafide, world wide hit and a sluggish, lifeless bore of a film. This is the end result of a closely watched, meticulously manufactured marketing juggernaut that desperately wants to fill the profitable void left by the Twilight films.
The first Hunger Games movie was sparse and lean. Lionsgate, the studio responsible for this lead ballon, wasn’t quite sure what they had, so they spent very little money on the production, and it showed. Peppered with second rate CGI, “B” and “C” list actors, and less then modest set design, The Hunger Games barley limped over the finish line and went on to become a huge hit.
The studio has spent much, much more on Catching Fire, but its as paint-by-numbers as it gets. Granted, the screenplay follows the book almost religiously, but in a way that sucks all the nuance and heart right out of it. The characters are marched through one scene after another, going through all the motions and speaking all the lines, but there is no life to any of it. Everything feels forced and calculated.
With one exception. Jena Malone shows up as fellow gladiator Joanna Mason and completely owns every scene she's in. The rawness and passion she brings to her role is about the only heartbeat the film has.
In the time between films, Jennifer Lawrence has gone on to become a huge star, and a Oscar winner for her role in Silver Linings Playbook. I think she’s a wonderful actress and very capable. Here, she just looks boarded and eager to cash her paycheck. She sulks around with entirely too much eyeliner on, and I have trouble believing her as a fierce warrior.
Speaking of cashing paychecks, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and Philip Seymour Hoffman all appear to be phoning it in.
As far as plot - well - who cares, right? The whole thing seems to revolve around The Capital being nervous that Katniss Everdeen is going to inspire a revolution in The Districts. So they put her in another round of Hunger Games and, well, yawn.
Perhaps I’m just showing my age. One of the young girls behind me in the cinema said, “Oh my god! That. Was so. Good.” Her friends agreed. So what do I know?