<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Francis Lawrence. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland, Lynn Cohen, Amanda Plummer, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin
So it’s here, the sequel based on a popular series of books that will undoubtedly be hailed as the victor but I for one will stand apart and say this was the most boring films I’ve seen all year.
There are always some films or rather ‘premises’ that will do well no matter how good the quality of the material is.
I have to say that I didn’t really think the first Hunger Games movie was ‘brilliant’. In my opinion there was nothing special or unique about the material. I wonder if you have to read the books to understand or fill in all the blanks. But a good film based on a good book shouldn’t be one where you have to refer back to the source material.
Unfortunately, in this second instalment you’ll have to watch the first film or read the books to understand what’s going on. Having watched the first film you’ll notice that the first half of Catching Fire is more or less the same. Someone in the audience even commented that it’s the ‘same template’. I agree. After winning the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has to go on a victory tour that is cut short by another set of games that will cast the victors of previous games. Not much of a victory then, huh!
What I can’t understand is what the gist of this premise is. If this is supposed to be a ‘Truman Show’ for the people then it doesn’t come through. Nowhere in this film do you see anyone actually watching the Games apart from the exceedingly boring President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the gigantically bored Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). So what is the aim of these games? The poor in the districts don’t care about them and even want to revolt. But the actual revolt is never shown.
The rich haves of The Hunger Games are never really portrayed apart from being overly done up (badly, I might add) fops who only care about glamour and bad jokes. What’s their motivation, what are they like, I don’t get an insight into that whole side of this metaphor for the haves and have-nots.
Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch Abernathy is supposed to be a mentor for Katniss and her make-believe boyfriend Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). But nowhere does he really offer any constructive feedback. Just like the first film he is reduced to a delivery boy sending a ‘nozzle’ to Katniss so she can make water out of nothing in the ‘dome’. So why not just send her a bazooka to blast the dome then?
Oh and if an old person can ‘volunteer’ to be part of the games in place of a young person like Mags (Lynn Cohen) does then why don’t all the old people volunteer? They’re not going to end up killing anyone as part of the games and who’ll want to watch old codgers stumbling around a forest? Did they not think of that?
The dialogue delivery is so bland and emotionless that I almost fell asleep. Philip Seymour Hoffman looks like he’s just put on a black trench coat in the middle of the night, sauntered onto the set and delivered his lines. Stanely Tucci goes way over the top for his character, which looks less like good acting and more like cheap, cheesy farce.
The only person I think must’ve had a bit of fun on this terribly dull production is the costume designer (Trish Summerville). Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) gets to wear some wonderful creations including an exquisite ‘butterfly’ dress.
Katniss kisses her ‘true’ love Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and then with equal sincerity by the end of the film she kisses Peeta. I see no mystery or endeavour to deceive here only a confused teenager who doesn’t know what she’s doing.
The whole second half is not really adrenalin pumping. The action is sloppy and the finale is of course up in the air considering they have to get you to go watch three more films (the last book will be split into two, as is the custom to get more of your money!).
Dull, incomplete, full of plot holes and weak performances, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a mediocre movie that doesn’t deserve all the praise its getting but then it seems ‘cool’ to like certain franchises and that is certainly the case with this one.
PS: I’m not the only one to dislike this film. Read this review too