The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Murray Close/Lionsgate

Catching Fire is almost here!

The Hunger Games sequel starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth hits theaters next Friday and some early reviews of the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins' hit book have already started rolling in.

While Catching Fire is sure to make some big bank at the box office, is it just as successful when it comes to the craft of filmmaking? Find out what some critics are saying about the film in our early review roundup.

Catching Fire

Vanity Fair

 • The Hollywood Reporter had countless kind things to say about the film. In addition to calling Lawrence the "superb center of it all " and noting that the "technical and craft contributions mark a step up from the original." THR raves, "Serving up everything from Suzanne Collins' eventful second installment in her trilogy about teenage warrior and rebel Katniss Everdeen that fans could possibly want to see, this is a safe, serviceable, carefully crafted action drama in which the subversive seeds planted in the first story take welcome root." Their bottom line: "The book literally put onscreen, which will delight fans to no end."

• "The Hunger Games featured kids killing kids for sport. Its sequel, the far superior The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, rewrites the rules, which not only makes for a more exciting death match, but also yields a rich sociopolitical critique in the process, in keeping with the incendiary subtext of Suzanne Collins' dystopian novel," boasts Variety. "Though technically just the bridge between the lower-budget original and the two-part finale still to come, in director Francis Lawrence's steady hands (gone are the previous film's needlessly spastic camera moves), Catching Fire makes for rousing entertainment in its own right, leaving fans riled and ready to storm the castle. Massive international interest should leave Lionsgate with coffers full and money to burn."

• A review on Yahoo Movies gushes over Lawrence's performance, but also makes sure to point out, "Either Elizabeth Banks' bizarrely overdressed flack and Stanley Tucci's unctuous TV host are being played more subtly, or real life is catching up to the absurdity of their characters, but they're much more interesting to watch this time around." All in all, they gush that the flick "serves up food for thought and jolts of adrenaline in equal doses, which is more than most YA adaptations have managed to deliver."

• "It's a critic's instinct to auto-praise any blockbuster that tries to do something different, but Catching Fire is so committed to carrying on the fine work started by its predecessor that the applause flows utterly naturally," writes the Telegraph. "Is it too soon to say I can't wait for the next one?"

• The Guardian points out the plot of the Hunger Games sequel may be too much like the first. "What lets the movie down is its heart, or lack thereof," the paper critiques. "The reprise of the Games introduces new adversaries (and some allies) but has exactly the same dynamic as in the first movie; Katniss must keep both herself and the ever-so bumbling Peeta alive. It's all a bit familiar. There's also a figurative heartlessness about this passage, too. While a fair portion of the original was spent setting up the moral difficulties of competing in a winner-takes-all bloodbath, as the bodycount here grows, the minds of the participants are only on tactics."

• The U.K.'s Independent also had some issues with the film. They write, "Strangely, when the long-awaited Hunger Games start, the film loses steam. There are still some tremendous special effects—toxic mist, mutant monkeys with a taste for flesh—but the storytelling becomes muddled. Katniss remains at the heart of the action, using her bow and arrow to explosive effect, even as we struggle to work out who survived, who is dead, who is killing who, what is happening—and why. (All will doubtless become clear in the next film.) It is heartening to find a teen-oriented movie franchise as gritty as The Hunger Games. Even so, Catching Fire remains contradictory, caught in some nether world between nightmarish political allegory and adolescent escapism."

• "In an industry with no shortage of star wattage, Jennifer Lawrence burns like the sun, and makes stardom look miraculously easy without ever hinting at the possibility she's coasting on charm," IndieWire claims, adding, "As Peeta, meanwhile, Hutcherson's maturing talents achieve a parallelism with the character's self-actualization, proving subtler and more self-aware with every resigned decision he makes on behalf of the people around him that he loves."

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