Hunger Games Catching Fire review: 'Jennifer Lawrence gives another full-blooded performance'

3.00

The second instalment is darker and faster, but ultimately fails to satisfy

The second instalment of the Hunger Games franchise is a definite improvement on its predecessor. This is a darker, more mature film which accentuates yet further the Orwellian elements in the Suzanne Collins novels from which it is adapted.

Click here for more pictures from the Catching Fire world premiere

It benefits from another full-blooded performance from Jennifer Lawrence as the tough, single-minded warrior heroine, Katniss Everdeen. There is strong support, too, from a cast which now includes Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, the duplicitous new “gamesmaker.” It’s just a pity that when battle finally commences, you again have the feeling you’re watching a bloodier version of It’s A Knockout – a glorified Outward Bound-style games show rather than a proper movie.

As the story begins, Katniss is back home in District 12 after winning the 74th Hunger Games. Her family and the other inhabits of the District still live in abject poverty. The ruthless and cynical President Snow (Donald Sutherland), wants her to go on a “victory tour” and to try to fool the masses that she is deeply in love with her co-survivor from the Games, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson.)

Francis Lawrence (taking over directorial duties from Gary Ross) accentuates the brutality in the early scenes. President Snow is a fascist leader. His military are ready to use the most extreme tactics to suppress any hint of revolutionary fervour. Katniss is in the unfortunate position of being a poster girl for a regime she loathes.

Jennifer Lawrence on the red carpet of the UK premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' (Getty) Jennifer Lawrence on the red carpet of the UK premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' (Getty)

As a dystopian sci-fi yarn, Catching Fire is – initially – effective and chilling. The imagery of district dwellers being rounded up and massacred seems intended to evoke memories of Nazi atrocities. The screenplay, co-written by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire and The Full Monty) has a strong satirical undertow. The fascist state uses the media in general – and reality TV game shows in particular – to keep the masses distracted.

The supporting cast clearly enjoy themselves. Stanley Tucci plays the game show host with extreme unctuous creepiness. Sutherland is good value as the sleekly evil, beard-stroking President. Elizabeth Banks behaves with the right mix of vanity and vacuousness as Katniss’s absurd chaperone, Effie Trinket.

 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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
    Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

    Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

    They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
    The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

    20 best days out for the summer holidays

    From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
    Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

    All the wood’s a stage

    Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
    Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

    Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

    Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
    Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

    Self-preservation society

    Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
    Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

    Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

    We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor