Critics seem to agree that the sequel captures the scale, but misses out on some social commentary.
The day has arrived: Catching Fire won’t actually be out in the US until November 22, but the Hunger Games sequel had its premiere on Monday, which means it’s time for lots of people to have lots of opinions. The entire promotional campaign and several interviews with Jennifer Lawrence in particular has touted the film as much bigger and more impressive than the original. “Everything is much bigger,” Lawrence said on the red carpet for Entertainment Weekly “Everything is intensified. … The stakes are much higher.”
Jennifer Lawrence looked lovely (as usual) at the film's London premiere.
That’s what reviewers are noticing as well and, for the most part, it’s working in the movie’s favour. Francis Lawrence took over directing duties after Gary Ross’ departure and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the new director has done a great job with the film: “The new film boasts a noticeably spiffier, more confident feel than the first, even as the overriding impression is one of methodical responsibility to the source material.” Methodical responsibility to the books is something that book fans usually expect from adaptations, however (case in point: Harry Potter) so this shouldn’t deter anyone from the film.
Then there’s Variety’s review, which goes more or less along the same lines, praising the film’s faithfulness to the books, instead of the boost in scale, due to “the extra $50 million or so Lionsgate poured into the film this time around.” Francis Lawrence receives an appreciative nod for his skill at “at tense, white-knuckle sci-fi” and "bold, unapologetic romance.” Not everyone agrees that this is the cinematic masterpiece it’s been advertised as, however. For several critics out there, Catching Fire suffers from classic sequel fatigue, serving as an effective, but ultimately less exciting bridge between the first film and the high point of the story to come in Mockingjay.
Francis Lawrence took over from Gary Ross for the second film.
Screen Daily’s review was rather extreme in that opinion, noting that: “…Catching Fire remains glumly mediocre because it can’t shake its disappointing mirroring of the first film or its role as connective tissue between The Hunger Games and subsequent sequels.” More importantly, the review takes note of the elephant in the room – the extreme violence in the first film crosses over into Catching Fire, but most reviewers seem to be numb to it this time around. According to Tim Grierson, the sequel once again “lacks much of a moral thrust regarding the striking scenario it depicts.” However, the review also notes that the performances – particularly Lawrence’s - are definitely on par, if not better than the original.
Overall, the best parts of the original are carried over into Catching Fire – it’s big, it’s impressive and it’s morally ambiguous, focusing on character development more than the overarching theme of injustice and social control. And, if we’re lucky, the cinematography might just be a bit less shaky this time around.
This film introduces Sam Clafflin's character, Finnick Odair, another winner of the 'Hunger Games.'