By Cory McCoy

Staff Writer

The second installment of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling “Hunger Games” trilogy came out swinging. “Catching Fire” smashed records for the five days Thanksgiving holiday weekend. According to BoxOfficeMojo.com, “Catching Fire” grossed a massive $296.3 million in its first 10 days. It is easily on track to surpass the original’s $408 million domestic gross.

“Catching Fire” picks up about a year after the “Hunger Games” ended. The film starts with Katniss (Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence) back in her old hunting grounds, trying to deal with the trauma inflicted upon her by the Capital’s ruthless games.

After putting on a show for the masses with her fake love interest Peeta, whom she helped win the last “Hunger Game,” the district is flooded by peacekeepers that ruthlessly destroy the impoverished district’s market and begin public lashings in the square.

Shortly after Peeta and Katniss are whisked away on a so called ‘Victory Tour’, where they see signs of rebellion brewing throughout their dys-

topian homeland of Panem. Thus begins a convoluted plan of revenge wherein the Capital and President plot to kill all the remaining victors in an attempt to crush the people’s hopes.

“Catching Fire” is so much more than a story about revenge though. It’s a poignant look at post-traumatic stress disorder and how each tribute handled it in their own way. The past victors begin to band together, more than half are not playing the game the  way the Capital wants to see.

While the game itself is exciting, with much better executed action sequences than its predecessor, the real focus is on the group trying to survive together.

Fan favorite Finnick Odair balances arrogance, molded by the need to protect himself from pain, and a touching relationship with his fellow tribute, the woman who raised him. Sam Claflin plays the character true to the book and his fans will be pleased with the outfits chosen for him.

Overall, “Catching Fire” improved upon the first in almost every way. The issue of hunger and strife is actually addressed.

Supporting characters are fleshed out, especially Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch, who perhaps displays the deepest level of pain and resentment of all the former tributes. It’s implied that his victory 25 years before came at a great price. Because of this, Haymitch understands better than anyone what President Snow is capable of.

Catching Fire is a riveting action movie with more layers than the average viewer will be expecting to find. Though the film is lacking in some areas due to time and budget constraints, it is definitely a must see at a time of year when consumers are so used to suffering through Twilight films. I give Catching Fire four Buffalo Chips.

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