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Turning up the heat for 'Mockingjay'

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
 Battling overwhelming oppression, struggling to survive one more day, the tough and gusty aura of last year's 'The Hunger Games' is back with a bang in Frances Lawrence's 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.' The second chapter of the internationally acclaimed 'The Hunger Games' franchise based on Suzanne Collins' novels sees Oscar winning actress Jennifer Lawrence getting back into her Katniss Everdeen avatar.

Less action and more tactics

The film opens with Katniss facing a dilemma of a different kind: a love triangle with her torn between her childhood friend, Gale, and her newfound alley in the games, Peeta. As the days roll on Katniss realizes that she could never put her past behind her because it consistently comes to haunt her through nightmares, mirages and through the media that keeps track of her and Peeta's blooming romance.

Adding insult to injury President Snow suspects that her ploy in trying to consume poisoned berries with Peeta at the end of the previous Hunger Games is an act of defiance rather than that of love. He fears that her actions can mobilize masses. Though they try to use the Katniss-Peeta romance as a means of distraction by blackmailing the duo into agreeing to parade their affection in all the districts, they cannot help the flames of revolution erupting among the society.

The result is that Katniss is forced again to play in the Hunger Games but this time the stakes are higher than before and much more complicated. In the 'Quarter Quell' she meets a group of interesting personalities: the previous victors of the Hunger Games.

The result is a competition which can change Panem forever.

Katniss is less of a person than symbol in 'Catching Fire.' Lawrence is remarkable in the scenes which require less action and demands more tactics to show that there is a lot going on inside Katniss' mind. However Katniss' personality needs to be developed more. This might be a tactic that the filmmaker has reserved for the third installment of the series.

Mixture of personalities

Peeta, Effie and Katniss

However we have a much clearer picture of Katniss in 'Catching Fire' than we did in 2012's 'The Hunger Games.' Yes, she is still pretty much ambiguous, but she has matures, learnt to read her surroundings, figured out how to discern allies from enemies and how to distinguish small battles from bigger wars. Lawerence takes to the role like a duck to the water. She has mastered the look of a wounded innocence which goes well with her character.

Josh Hutcherson's Peeta and Liam Hemsworth's Gale are pitted against each other. Though Gale is given more screen space in 'Catching Fire,' Peeta outshines him yet again.

The other contestants of the Hunger Games are an interesting mixture of personalities.

The description of their mannerism is highly entertaining. Elizabeth Banks is eye catching as Effie Trinket who dons many vibrant outfits and hairdos. Donald Sutherland makes a mean President Snow. New member to the team, Sam Claflin, infuses charm and slyness as Finnick.

A satisfactory climax

Another striking fact about 'Catching Fire' is how the scenes shift from the gloominess and poverty of the districts to the extravagance and flamboyance of the cityscapes of the Capitol. This is basically the extension of the theme of the haves and have-nots brought in a novel manner. There are also a mix bag of episodes revolving around terror and surprising beauty. The occasion clash between the natural and the synthetic is finely captured. 'Catching Fire' also brings to life some of the most gripping combat scenes in the race for survival.

If the predecessor has been branded as bloody, the sequel is darker, moodier and meaner. Though it deliberately mirrors its predecessor from the first scene from where Katniss and Gale go hunting together, it has its own originality. It reflects how the world has changed since the 74th Hunger Games.

One disappointing fact is how the story comes to a sharp and abrupt end. However this is a strategy used by the filmmakers to pave the way and stir up some anticipation for 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1.' It definitely leaves you wanting more. Devoid of a satisfactory climax and the fast paced action found in its predecessor, 'Catching Fire' manages to carve itself a notable space.

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