I've just come back from the cinema after watching the latest installment in The Hunger Games franchise, Catching Fire. I had high hopes for the sequel, as I was very impressed by its predecessor. Fortunately, I'm pleased to report that the sequel lives up to both the hype and the solidity of the first film.
Catching Fire, being the sequel to The Hunger Games, is set almost immediately after the events of the first film. The plot once again follows Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) as she is trying to cope with the aftermath of the events of the Games. However, subsequent uprisings in the Districts ultimately leads the government to take action by making the previous victors tributes again in the 75th Hunger Games (or the Quarter Quell). In terms of accuracy to the book, the adaptation of Catching Fire does a good job of staying faithful - however, as is the case with almost all adapted films, there are some parts that were left out and others that were more exaggerated.
Of course, acting is worth mentioning when reviewing this film, especially in the wake of Jennifer Lawrence's Oscar win. She puts in yet another outstanding performance in Catching Fire, especially in the moments where the audience gets to see how disturbed Katniss is after the last Games. The rest of the cast, both recurring and new-timers, all perform very well. What really stands out is the developed relationship between Katniss, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), which goes from touching at times to absolutely hilarious at others.
Visually, the film is very impressive. The cinematography is very smooth and there are some beautifully artistic shots mingled in amongst all the action. The special effects in the film are essentially what is now expected from an action/adventure film - they look convincing, but aren't exactly ground-breaking. That being said, I do think that the effects on the costumes during the chariot scene in The Capitol are much better the second time around.
Overall, I'd give Catching Fire an 8 out of 10. Despite the long run-time (approximately two and a half hours), the second installment in The Hunger Games franchise manages to be engaging throughout, with a superb lead performance from Jennifer Lawrence and great visuals to accompany.