The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Director: Francis Lawrence (2013)

Jennifer Lawrence once again suffers the slings, swords and arrows of outrageous fortune in this excellent sequel to 2011’s sci-fi blockbuster.

This is a handsome, exciting and intelligent adventure that throws in plenty of humour among the thrilling combat scenes.

Lawrence is as brilliant as ever as the heroine Katniss Everdeen and carries this huge movie on her slender frame. She’s skilled, brave and loyal yet also unsure and vulnerable. It’s another terrific performance from an actress who’s yet to deliver a poor one.

Having survived gladitorial combat in the first movie, expert archer Katniss (Lawrence) is back living in borderline poverty with her sister Prim (Willow Shields).

She’s enjoying the company of the handsome Gale (Liam Hemsworth) while lovestruck fellow survivor Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) sulks.

As masked soldiers are cracking down on the skulls of the starving population, ruthless  President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) are having great fun plotting the demise of a growing rebellion.

Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman and Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket dress with camp flamboyance as vain and vacuous media darlings who provide much needed background info and no little levity.

Even though Katniss and Peeta are forced into a media friendly sham marriage to protect their families, they still find themselves back in the combat arena.

The set design is epic, the soundtrack is haunting and the story rattles along like the express train that shuttles Katniss to the Capitol to do battle.

This time they’re fighting former champions – each one a fully trained killer – and doing it  on a tropical island filled with angry baboons, poison fog and rains of blood.

Although it ends strongly it is also anti-climactic being the middle film of a trilogy, sorry, tetralogy.

Plus it takes its time getting to the Games themselves and Peeta is such a dull person you wonder why such efforts are made to protect him. But what he lacks in charisma, Lawrence is always there to more than compensate.

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