Nothing could have prepared me for Catching Fire; it was, quite simply, an astonishment on every level. It is so much more than just an action movie; it is also a thought-provoking look at hope, revolution, rebellion, and the importance of government. It's themes encompass grand ideas and touchy subjects with utter fearlessness.
Let us examine what sets The Hunger Games: Catching Fire a cut above the rest:
1. CAST: Surrounding the amazing Jennifer Lawrence (who has matured into a riveting young actress) is a supporting cast to die for. Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth give good roles, but it is the incomparable Donald Sutherland, who oozes quiet menace from every pore, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who chews the scenery with a subtle performance, and the amazing Jeffrey Wright who truly astonish. Look also for Jena Malone as Johanna Mason in a brilliant, scene-stealing performance of incredible charisma.
2. CINEMATOGRAPHY: Filled with gorgeous and eye-catching shots, Joe Willems's cinematography fills Panem with striking, practical, gritty, but never dour visuals. From the browns and greys of District 12 to the lush, green, cramped hell of the arena, Catching Fire is one of the best photographed films of the year.
3. COSTUMES AND SET DESIGN: Catching Fire offers, courtesy of small genius Trish Summerville, some of the most luscious, gorgeous, and eye-catching dresses this side of Lord of the Rings. Look for the marked contrast between the grit and the ash of District 12 with the gleam and color of the Capitol. THG's realistic set design and costuming brings a whole new field of "real" to the game.
4. ACTION: The perfect blend of psychological build-up and riveting action, the last hour of Catching Fire is an absolute powerhouse of action. Prepare to be glued to the edge of your seat as poisonous fog, lightning, monkeys, psychological torture, and floods beset our heroes. The stakes are raised, and the action is upped, but GONE is the shaky-cam that plagued the first film. Catching Fire has matured in every way.
5. THEMES: This is what astonished me the most; the subtle, devious, brilliantly convoluted game of cat-and-mouse ("moves and counter moves") played by President Snow, Plutarch Heavensbee, and Katniss Everdeen over the course of the film. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a thought-provoking and stimulating look at fascism, revolution, revolt, and the dangerous side effects of hope. Bravo for the decision to insert such smart material into a film of this calibre.
On the whole, the cons of Catching Fire are few, and it's pros are many. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the blockbuster event of the year. 5 tributes out of 5.