The Hunger Games : Catching Fire (Francis Lawrence, 2013)

What's it about? We're back in the dystopian world of Panem. At the end of The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) had successfully survived the Games by pretending (or are they?) to be in love. Their triumph has led to stirrings of rebellion across the districts, which doesn't best please the dastardly President Snow (Donald Sutherland). So he hatches a cunning plan to dispose of Katniss by forcing her to face The Hunger Games once more in an extra-special Champions of Champions event.

Is it any good? This second helping of The Hunger Games re-heats and serves up pretty much the same dish again. This time, the spicy child-killing aspect of the first film is replaced by a much blander and uncontroversial adult competition - a bit like Superstars Challenge of the Champions (circa 1981), only with better tracksuits and less press-ups. So it lacks the edge of the first film and doesn't really do anything fresh with the ingredients. That said, however, this remains really quite enjoyable. The first half is especially strong as Katniss finds herself the reluctant figurehead of a stirring rebellion, with the continuing themes of totalitarianism, satire and the nature of reality TV providing food for thought beneath the big-budget surface. There's also fun turns from the supporting cast, with Stanley Tucci's ghastly Games TV host, Woody Harrelson's hard-drinking Haymitch and Elizabeth Banks' Effie all worthy of mention. Once again, though, the film belongs to Jennifer Lawrence, who remains as deliciously edible as ever as The Running Woman, SpartaKatniss, equally impressive in both the action and glamour sequences. Her performance is committed enough to carry the film through the latter Games section of the film, which otherwise underwhelms in the action and tension stakes as it fumbles its way unconvincingly to a cliffhanger ending. Nevertheless, there's enough here to make me come back for a third course, but it is perhaps worrying that the final book, Mockingjay, apparently the weakest in the trilogy, has been adapted into two films, in time-honoured tradition of doing justice to the source novel milking the franchise for all it's worth. I'm not sure I really need two portions of dessert, and besides I've exhausted my hunger-related analogies, not to mention the patience of people who read this. Still, on this evidence, the odds are in its favour.

Anything else I should know? Confused by my reference to Superstars above? Then check this out. That's reality TV gold right there. Brian Jacks would have squat-jumped The Hunger Games and its competitors into oblivion.

What does the Fonz think? Please Sir, Can I have some more?

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  2. directorscut28/4/14

    I think you can skip the next film entirely because absolutely nothing of note happens in the first half of the book.

  3. My teenage girl contacts tell me the same thing. It's like harry potter 7 all over again, innit.