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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests