The Heat Is Brought
I begin with a quote from Alicia Keyes, and that is the following: “this girl is on fire.” The girl I speak of, for those of you who may be new to all of this, is none other than Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who has now reluctantly become a symbol of hope for the people of Panem. This film opens roughly one year after the harrowing events of the first and we find Katniss back in her home of District 12, but being a victor of the games doesn’t necessarily mean that all is well. Quite the opposite in fact.
The Hunger Games are an annual event. However, every twenty-five years, a special wrinkle in the rules of the games is introduced, which sets it apart from other games and this time, probably the most devious wrinkle of all has been introduced: living victors from previous games, will now be chosen to compete. Katniss and Peeta, are two such winners selected to be thrust back into the arena to fight to the death once more.
Like Gary Ross’ original entry of the series, the games don’t actually begin until roughly halfway through the film’s nearly 2 and a half hour running time. This is by no means a bad thing because there is much to set up and expand upon before the first cannon goes off. Director Francis Lawrence handles all the character moments and events leading up to the games with great care and there’s a feeling that certain aspects were given more time to develop, which was something I felt was lacking a bit in the original.
This is a technically smoother film than the original primarily due to the absence of the shaky cam and really quick cuts during the action scenes. Here, the shots are deliberate and long enough where you can clearly see everything happening and you aren’t jarred by the transitions. This could be a stylistic preference on my part, but I tend to like to see the action taking place in a scene in a way that allows me to fully process what happens. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind shaky cam and quick cuts so long as it’s done in a way that won’t take away from the action itself.
The acting is once again stellar. There were fantastic performances from all of the cast. Some who stood out were newcomers Jeffrey Wright and Academy Award winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman, as Beetee Latier and Plutarch Havensbee respectively. They really brought it and along with Donald Sutherland as the delightfully devious President Snow, they all manage to lend the film its anchors. Stanley Tucci also has to be mentioned because he’s just so perfect as Cesar Flickerman. The real star though, is of course Jennifer Lawrence, who once again manages to bring some serious heft to the role of Katniss. The range she displays reminds you of why she’s such a powerhouse of an actor. She really can do it all.
This is a solid second entry in the series, right up there with some of the greatest sequels ever, as it does everything a great sequel should. It not only expands the ideas and the world previously established, it also deepens the plight of the characters and further develops them as they move forward in accepting their destinies. Francis Lawrence’s take on the source material is strong enough to stand next to the original, but it also can stand on it’s own. I’m very much looking forward to Mockingjay, though I’m bothered that it’ll be split into two parts. That however, is another entry.