Catching Fire Review Roundup: Hunger Games Sequel Hits Bull's-Eye With Critics

See what the movie experts are saying about the highly anticipated movie

By Peter Gicas Nov 21, 2013 3:25 PMTags
Catching FireVanity Fair

The wait is almost over!

Catching Fire, the highly anticipated Hunger Games sequel starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, hits theaters on Friday, Nov. 22.

Here now is a sampling of what the critics are saying. You know, to help you decide whether to see it or not.

Oh, who are we kidding? You're probably already in line.

• "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is crowd-pleasing and compelling, most of all because of its fiery, charismatic heroine," writes Claudia Puig of USA Today. "It's almost as if the role of Katniss Everdeen...was written expressly for Jennifer Lawrence. The Oscar-winning actress can nimbly pull off the dazzling fashion-show moments in this futuristic drama, as well as the considerable action exploits and emotional shadings required of her tortured character. Whether on the runway or shooting an arrow, Lawrence is powerfully convincing."

• "An effective piece of melodramatic entertainment that savvily builds on the foundation established by the first Hunger Games movie," notes Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times.

• "Catching Fire is more energized than the first Hunger Games movie; it's been directed, by Francis Lawrence, with a darkly sustained verve," states Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman. "As newcomer Johanna, Jena Malone delivers her lines with a scene-stealing screw-it-all nastiness, and Sam Claflin nails the role of the wicked-smart former champion Finnick. As for Lawrence, she more than holds her own, turning her face into a dreamy-pale Valkyrie mask. You react to every wave of sadness and fury roiling around inside Katniss, even when Katniss isn't allowed to show it."

• "Relatively speaking, Catching Fire is terrific. Even nonrelatively, it's pretty damn good," offers David Edelstein of New York Magazine.

• "Perhaps the most useful thing I can tell you about Catching Fire is that I went in dreading its 146-minute running time, especially after the messy and often undercooked first film, and was so captivated by the vibrant spectacle—seeing the movie in IMAX is actually worth it, this time around—that I was startled when the closing credits began to roll," writes Andrew O'Hehir of "It's a middle chapter, for sure, but a vigorous and fast-paced one that leaves you hungry for more."

• "The endlessly watchable Jennifer Lawrence is the main reason to see this middle-child movie in the Hunger Games franchise," opines Time's Richard Corliss. "Spinning in that wedding dress, or glaring in wary repose, Lawrence catches fire on screen. She'll make a superb La Pasionaria when Panem has a real war in the Mockingjay films."

• "This second installment of the film series...hits all the bases for a genre movie — whether you're there for thrills, romance or even sociopolitical commentary, you'll come away satisfied," states Alonso Duralde of The Wrap. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire serves up food for thought and jolts of adrenaline in equal doses, which is more than most YA adaptations have managed to deliver. Dismiss it as a popcorn movie if you must, but at least they've bothered to serve it with real butter and truffle salt."