MOVIE REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson Lenny Kravitz, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci. Directed by Francis Lawrence
Catching Fire picks up after the end of The Hunger Games with Katniss and Peeta back in District 12 trying to get back to whatever normal means now after surviving the Games.
However, nothing is ever that simple in Panem, and soon Katniss and Peeta are whisked away for a celebratory tour of the Districts.
President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is keen to snuff out any hint of rebellion against the Capital and believes the best way to do that is have Peeta and Katniss sell their "love story."
With their families under threat, Peeta and Katniss do their best, but with the seeds of rebellion already stirring, it takes more than a simple love story.
Enter the 75th Hunger Games - culled from previous Victors.
Sometimes, however, there's nothing you can do to stop an uprising which is very clearly illustrated during one pivotal point about halfway through the movie.
There's a slight sense of deja vu, with the Hunger Games being run again, but apart from that, Catching Fire more than lives up to the promise of the first movie.
The visuals are just as strong, and there's some really great character development along the way - not just from Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) but from supporting characters like Effie (Elizabeth Banks) who come to their own realisations about how corrupt the system really is, and the depths to which the Capitol will sink to maintain the status quo.
Catching Fire is close to the perfect peak of a story - that moment where everything pulls together right before it's set to crumble again in Mockingjay.
Jennifer Lawrence rides a fine line between vulnerability and fierceness as Katniss, and she carries it off really well, holding the whole movie together and driving the story forward like a veteran.
Catching Fire has a lot of unexpectedly emotional moments that catch you out and make you invest in the characters - and the rebellion - even more.
Ultimately, it's Lawrence's movie to make or break, which she does, but the extensive supporting cast all have their moments - especially Elizabeth Banks and, most chilling, Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the new game-maker.
The odds are definitely in Catching Fire's favour.
- The Southland Times