Social inequality and prejudice resume their deleterious effects on the working-class people of the twelve districts in the dystopian nation of Panem as Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson reprise their roles as the victors of the 74th annual Hunger Games. Directing a sequel is an onerous task; the stakes have already been raised, and the expectations have to be met. Did the change in directors impact the outcome of this much anticipated sequel to the 2012 blockbuster? Certainly not in a negative way.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire shifts gears constantly, exploring darker themes as Francis Lawrence flexes his creative muscles. Our delightfully compassionate, yet dangerously formidable heroine, Katniss Everdeen, struggles to subsist Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as she gets ready to embark on her victory tour alongside Peeta Mellark, the bread-boy.
This adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ second book in the trilogy establishes that violence is not only confined within the Hunger Games arena, but outside it as well. Katniss is now a symbol of hope for the oppressed people of Panem, and her act of defiance in the last movie has provoked an uprising in several districts: she is the Mockingjay.
Chaos ensues in her own district while she has difficulty dealing with her increasingly complicated relationships with Peeta and Gale.
The victors soon learn that even after winning the Games, they have not yet attained freedom, and have to live the horror yet again in a special edition of the Hunger Games.
The actual arena of the Quarter Quell is equally, if not as much, impressive than the arena shown in its predecessor, with the hourly disaster system portrayed very well like it was in the books.
Elizabeth Banks returns as the ridiculously dressed Effie Trinket, this time surprising us with intensely emotional responses after the confirmation of Katniss participating once again in the Games, proving that even people under the influence of the Capitol itself have realized the unfair treatment of the district-people.
The newcomers to the screen include the hot-shot Finnick, the geniuses Beetee and Wiress, the quiet and aging Mags, and the aggressively mad Johanna. New Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee also makes a few appearances, which turn out to be significant build-ups to the cliffhanger ending.
The real emotional resonance lies in the fact that it is not just the actual Games that are the centre of attention anymore, but the inevitable revolution that is to follow against the Capitol and its regime.
Fans of the book would immediately notice a few missing scenes that were thought to be significant to the story: the encounter with the two runaways from District 8; the videos of Haymitch winning the Hunger Games of his time; the part where Katniss breaks her leg after an attempt to jump over the newly electrified fence that surrounds her district is also omitted.
Moreover, one of the hurdles to overcome while making a film adaption of a book that has been written in a first-person perspective is the depiction of scenes that are not from the main character’s point-of-view. Yet the movie does not fail to impress. Even by adding scenes not from the book, or modifying existing ones to make them more suitable for the screen, it still manages to deliver a tremendously compelling narrative at a constant pace.
Even the nit-pickiest of book fans would agree that this is a sequel that transcends the limitations set by its predecessor, and just works.
Talha Saleh Khan
Image courtesy of thewrap.com