The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

justin perich catching fireThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire – The second installment of the bestselling Suzanne Collins series was made with almost twice the budget, and for once a sequel has twice as much to recommend it. For starters, there’s the new director Francis Lawrence, a vast improvement over the talented but somewhat ill-fitting Gary Ross, who helmed the first of the franchise. Not that the original was bad, no not at all, but every book in the series was practically written for a film adaptation, and The Hunger Games (2012) only succeeded in that it didn’t mess up a good thing. On the other hand, Catching Fire takes its source material, honors it, but actually improves upon it, finding subtle levels of human condition and cultural relevance that just aren’t there in the written word. This is in part thanks to the widely accomplished screenwriters, Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 HoursThe Full Monty) and Michael Arndt (Oblivion, Brave, Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3), and partly thanks to the special effects team, but mostly due to the movie’s star, Jennifer Lawrence. In her second time embodying Katniss Everdeen, Lawrence expands out into the role and recreates the character in even more detail, even more honesty, and even more strength. The rest of the film’s elements amount to very effectively collected and very carefully placed tinder, but her performance is the flame that keeps the film alight the full 140 minutes. 5/5 stars.