Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

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Image is property of Lionsgate

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Film Review 

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence,  Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Claflin

Director: Francis Lawrence

Synopsis: Katniss has sparked rebellion in the twelve districts of Panem and she has become the target by the ruthless Capitol. As rebellion is brewing, the Capitol prepares for the 75th Hunger Games, also known as the Third Quarter Quell, and one that will change Katniss’s life forever…

Review: A bigger and better adventure than the first film of what already has the makings of a very successful franchise.  A franchise that is quite simply not a plain rip off of Battle Royale as some people would have you believe.

The opening begins with the consequences of Katniss and Peeta’s open defiance against the Capitol following their victory in the previous film. Katniss in particular feels the full wrath of the cold President Snow (Donald Sutherland) who threatens Katniss with the deaths of all those she holds dear unless she cools the brewing rebellion that is gaining momentum throughout the nation’s twelve districts. Katniss is seen as the symbol of rebellion and Snow desperately wants to kill her to crush the rebellion. Yet Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) suggests that she be brought down to the level of the Capitol and the symbol of hope that she has become will be eradicated. Sutherland takes his performance form the first film up a gear and he definitely comes into his own as the cold and cruel leader of Panem.

Jennifer Lawrence rose to super stardom following her performance as the film’s star heroine in last year’s film. Following on from this, the 23 year old has got bigger and now has on Oscar for her role in Silver Linings Playbook. The only way is up for her and her performance as the film’s lead character was again fantastic. A strong and powerful female heroine is rare in films these days but with Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, she gives us the strong female lead that has helped define this franchise and dare I say, helps bring a positive image of women in action movies and not the sulking and needy women that has come from franchises of the past (*cough* Twilight *cough) The returning cast are also on form again with Stanley Tucci as the bubbly Casear Flickman and Elizabeth Banks as the ever colourful and this time much more emotional Effie Trinket.  Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson also reprise their roles to great effect. Among the new members of the cast, Sam Claflin is the most noteworthy as Finnick Odair. Yet the likes of Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Wiress (Amanda Plummer), Mags (Lynn Cohen) and Johanna (Jena Malone) also make strong impressions.

Under a new director, Francis Lawrence who is not a relation of Jennifer, the film’s action scenes definitely improve and the frustrating shaky cam has been done away with. This film does focus a lot more on some of the crucial elements that are within the books and as the content of this film is considerably darker than its predecessor. A notable example of this is the significance of the Mockingjay pin that went completely amiss in the first film. The director does a great job in bringing those elements from Collins’ novel to the big screen and all in all it is pulled off really well with some exciting and pulsating  scenes especially when we get to the arena which again is done extremely well.

Under Lawrence’s direction, this franchise is in good hands and the final two parts of the franchise have got the potential to be even better than the first two. With the third biggest opening in the UK for 2013, it seems the UK public continue to want the odds to be in their favour. This film definitely delivers what the hordes of passionate Hunger Games fans wanted to see.  It was exciting, dark and was all round perfectly executed. It was  much more loyal to the book  than the first film. While it was not completely loyal, it was still very enjoyable and I eagerly await the next instalment of this franchise.

Upping the stakes as a sequel should, Catching Fire  delivers much more compelling action with a really solid story that ensures the odds are very much in this franchise’s favour.

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Posted in Film Review

The Hunger Games (2012)

All image rights belong to Lionsgate and Color Force
Image is property of Lionsgate and Color Force

The Hunger Games – Film Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

Director: Gary Ross

Synopsis: In the aftermath of a rebellion, a nation forces, known as “tributes”. The tributes are then trained and forced to fight to the death in a tournament known as the Hunger Games until there is only one person standing.

Review: A solid film that sets the benchmark for what could be an exciting quartet of films. Prior to its release, this film had garnered a massive amount of buzz and excitement in the wake of the best-selling novels from Collins. The first film of the series was always going to be crucial to the future success of the franchise, and while the film does have its problems; it is nevertheless an exciting first chapter that hits the ground running and will leave the viewers wanting more. With Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, the film offers a likeable, confident and strong female protagonist, a rare feature for a big budget Hollywood blockbuster. She is a character that the audience immediately sympathise with due to the horrific poverty that she and her family have to endure as their district; district twelve is one of the poorest districts. She takes the place of her sister Prim (Willow Shields) by volunteering in the Hunger Games, alongside Peeta Mellark, a baker’s boy who Katniss has some history with. Along with the two tributes from district twelve, all the tributes train for several days before being sent into battle in the Hunger Games until only one victor remains.

Lawrence, on the back of her Oscar nominated success from Winter’s Bone, delivers a very strong lead performance. She is brave, strong willed, determined and a powerful warrior. At the same time she shows compassion and emotion when she needs to. While the film does breeze over some important elements of the story from Collins’ work, in particular the Mockingjay pin, it does offer up some exciting moments. Before the action in the arena kicks off, Katniss gives some memorable moments including the Tributes Parade and the showing of her “Girl on Fire” dress while during her pre-Games interview by Caesar Flickerman. (Stanley Tucci) However, this is all a prelude to the Hunger Games itself.

Right from the beginning of the tournament the action is exciting stuff. Yet it does slow down at various points which does enable some important character development, namely between Katniss and Peeta as they grow closer together and begin to form a strong relationship. Despite this, the action soon begins to flow again with the tributes steadily falling down one by one. When the climax of the film happens, it is one of, if not the best action scene of the film. The film does a superb score that accompanies many of these action scenes and it greatly adds to the drama and excitement of the scenes in question. Along with a strong lead performance from Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson is a solid lead character alongside Katniss. It is fascinating to see Katniss’s initial dislike of him turn into some strong feelings.

The supporting cast are also on form. In particular, Woody Harrelson is perfect in the role of Haymitch, the almost always drunk mentor for the district twelve tributes. Stanley Tucci is as charismatic as he always tends to be as the TV personality Caesar Flickerman. Elizabeth Banks and Donald Sutherland also deliver strong performances as the colourful and bubbly Effie Trinket and the dark and mysterious President Snow respectively. The latter of which is a character that remains a mystery and he will no doubt come into his own in the later films. A couple of criticisms of the film is that, as previously mentioned, some key elements of Collins’ work are missing from final cut. Another criticism of the film is that the camera work in the film is shaky in numerous parts which made watching the film a little frustrating at times.

In spite of this, The Hunger Games is the solid start to the franchise that many of the passionate fans wanted. It had some strong performances especially from Lawrence who was the heroine that fans Katniss wanted to be and has proved to be the launching platform into mega stardom for Jennifer Lawrence, and deservedly so. The odds are definitely in favour of the Hunger Games franchise.

Young adult novel adaptations in the wake of Harry Potter have been plentiful, but this might just be the start of a special franchise to rival the Boy Who Lived.

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