Let the games begin...again!
In Catching Fire, which takes place shortly after the end of the original Hunger Games, Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen and Josh Hutcherson's Peeta Mallark go on their victory tour to honor fallen competitors. But revolution is in the air among the 12 districts of Panem. So, by order of the creepy President Snow, a deadlier Hunger Games is announced to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Capital's crushing of an earlier rebellion. The new contest brings back past winners, so Katniss and Peeta must match wits against a more experienced bunch of killers.
While Suzanne Collins' second book in her trilogy suffers a bit in comparison to the first book (and must inevitably leave things hanging for the third book), the latest installment is actually a better experience in nearly every way. Not just of the first film, but the books, too.
Here are 7 ways Catching Fire is a superior sequel.
1. Catching Fire Adds a Legend..ary Director: The work original Hunger Games director Gary Ross did has been improved upon. Gone for the most part is the shaky-cam style that made some viewers queasy. I am Legend director Francis Lawrence delivers a darker, more layered feel to the proceedings while showing off visual clarity. The slightly visible forcefields, angry orangutans, and a watery setting all impress, but the main thing is that J.Law is an actress who can make us feel her pain.
2. OMG, IMAX: Like the Dark Knight films, CF was shot partially in the IMAX format. The results are outstanding and, thankfully, not in 3D. The biggest advantage for the experience are all those death matches in the arena that feature an hourly lightning storm and a big lake divided into 12 sections. These scenes make the vertical aspect of the game feel so real all the way up to a sky that seems to be endless…
3. The Costumes Are as Fierce as the Fights: Amidst all the gloom and doom are Effie's stunning outfits. More than the last film, the costumes leave an impression. Our favorite: a Reaping butterflies number. Lady Gaga would appreciate costume designer Trish Summerville's (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) fashion-forward looks.
4. It's Better Than the Book: No spoilers, but it's probably best to know that this one ends abruptly. What happens and how it all goes down (mostly) matches the novel, but the tone and rich performance elevate the YA material. Case in point: Effie in the book is mostly comic relief, but as interpreted by Elizabeth Banks, the actress earns our sympathies, too.
5. It's Got a Stronger Group of Tributes. For example, Jena Malone's Johanna is never short on new ways to shock Katniss. Her intro in an elevator, where she angrily disrobes in front of Haymitch and Peeta, leaves Katniss fuming. Well played, Johanna. If Katniss doesn't survive Mockingjay Part 2 (due Nov 20th, 2015), but Johanna does, can we get a spin-off please? Speaking of tributes, Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) and Finnick (Sam Claflin) are great additions.
6. The Game Is On: The previous gamemaker, Seneca Crane, does not return. Out of retirement comes Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character Plutarch "No One Has a Normal Name Ever" Heavensbee, who works closely with Snow to ensure Katniss is truly tested this time. And she is.
7. You'll Not Hunger for Hotness: Katniss does plenty of smooching with both Peeta and Gale, which we like, while the focus on the upcoming war stays front and center. We like that. And Liam Hemsworth's Gale does get shirtless, though it's not in a steamy sexy way. And again, see Claflin above. Yum.
What did you think of the new film? Sound off in the comments!