The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was released in the UK yesterday (21st November) and in the USA today (22nd November). Critics have responded positively to the film which continues the tale of Katniss Everdeen and the dystopia of Panem.

Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen on a promotional poster for Catching Fire.

Catching Fire continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, the winner of the Hunger Games, after she returns home to district 12. As a winner of the games she leads a relatively comfortable life. However, after witnessing horrific cruelty during the Hunger Games, she begins to notice further cracks the Panem system. Everdeen is forced back into the arena in order to compete again alongside her fellow competitor Peeta.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Everdeen, whilst her two love interests Peeta and Gale are played by Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks return as members of the Panem elite who organise the annual games.

Watch the movie trailer for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire:

Critics have overall been positive about the film and have particularly commented on the special effects and the actors performances. 

The special effects and design team have been highly praised by critics, even those who are not fans of the film or the franchise. Ben Sachs of the Chicago Reader highly praised the design teams, writing: "This sequel is a triumph of production design: Philip Messina's settings are so detailed that they convey how the movie's dystopic U.S. functions beyond the story at hand, and Trish Summerville's costume design shows a similar degree of invention."

See pictures from the Los Angeles premiere of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Lawrence's acting has also received positive reviews. Indeed, Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal goes so far as to suggest she is the lynch pin which holds the whole film together. He felt "None of it would work -not the action, the adventure, the political subtext or the humour - without the strength and beauty that Ms Lawrence brings to the central role." Whilst Jake Coyle of the AP stated "Lawrence (convincingly tormented in this film) has a calm sincerity and steely determinism that cuts through it all."

See pictures from the New York premiere of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

One of the most criticised aspects is the second half of the film and its seemingly slow pace and muddled action. This was commented upon Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle who wrote: "Catching Fire is best in its first hour, when it concentrates on the politics and the specific horrors of Panem. It becomes more conventional in the second half and loses steam, but it's always heading somewhere." Whilst another critic, the New Yorker's David Denby, felt the climatic action was "an incoherent, rapid blur that will send the audience scurrying back to the book to find out what's supposed to be going on."

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is released in the US today (22nd November). The film was released in the UK yesterday.

Catching Fire
Catching Fire stars Josh Hutcherson and Katniss Everdeen.