EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


November 20, 2013

'Catching Fire' lacks heat to leave viewers hungry for future 'Games'

It begins with a 90-minute fashion show masquerading as a sci-fi epic, and ends abruptly.

Because “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is the most female-friendly / runway ready sci-fi franchise ever, and the latest film in the four-film trilogy is meant to a cliffhanger, after all.

But once things get going, FINALLY get under way, this humorless chatterbox of intrigues, rebellion and a love triangle that seems “Twilighty” in its lovelessness packs in some real pathos. And while it may leave fans begging for more, and right away, the rest of the universe can be excused for rolling its collective eyes and snapping, “Oh, for Peeta’s sake, get ON with it.”

The victors in the 74th Hunger Games are touring the land, sharing their “love story for the ages” at the behest of the Capital, and the president, played by Donald Sutherland.

President Snow knows all, including the fact that Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) don’t click as a couple.

Katniss also knows too much and senses the unrest in the land, which worries the daylights out of Snow. Perhaps she’ll use her manufactured celebrity to inspire a revolt.

And they cannot leave her and Peeta to their dull District 12 mining lives, where Katniss can share her REAL feelings with hunky miner Gale (Liam Hemsworth).

So the “next” Hunger Games, the 75th, the “Quarter Quell” event, will round up lots of recent winners / survivors of the Games to go at it, to the death, to get these symbolic young lovers / would-be revolutionaries out of the way. Aiding President Snow’s designs are Plutarch, the game builder (Philip Seymour Hoffman). He envisions turning the public against Katniss.

They spent more on production design for this wintry, woodsy sequel to “The Hunger Games.” Lawrence has since won an Oscar and has grown into a formidable young woman, and Hutcherson’s voice has deepened and has real screen presence, now. The acting is better, with Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer, Jena Malone and Sam Claflin brought in as games players.

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