I was surprised, as I think many grown-ups are, to find myself such a rabid fan of The Hunger Games series. It is, after all, considered Young Adult literature, not to mention that it encompasses the genres of sci-fi, fantasy, and action/adventure, all of which I like some of the time, but not usually wrapped into one. Yet not one single person I know who has read the books, old, young, male, female, traditional, or trendy is any less crazed about them than I am. In truth, I had to be persuaded to read book one, then, of course, couldn't put it or the sequels down. After that, I didn't want see the The Hunger Games in the theatre when it came out because I didn't believe the film would do the book justice. I finally watched it on DVD and was converted. A fine job director Gary Ross did indeed.

As a result, I set out bursting with excitement to see the film version of Catching Fire, book two in the series, husband, mom, and young adult son in tow - and none of us was disappointed - on the contrary, we couldn't stop talking about it afterwards. In spite of the fact that director Francis Lawrence toned down the violence for the sake of the younger viewers, all the intensity of the book is there. I'm sure author Suzanne Collins must be pleased. And though it's hard to think of the actors who portray the much-loved characters objectively: Katniss, Peeta, Gale, Prim, Effie, Haymitch, etc., I'm compelled to comment on the performance of Jennifer Lawrence in particular, for, as far as I'm concerned, no other actress could do the part of Katniss Everdeen justice. She is appropriately more hardened in this second film, more traumatised from the start. Yet the actress always knows the moment to let us see the crack in her armour. Lawrence knows that Katniss must not only be brave, but human; strong, but flawed; tender, but reluctant. And it's almost pointless to praise the other performers because they completely get it too: story, character, everything. The only cast member I have a slight problem with is Jena Malone as Johanna Mason, initially Katniss' rival. I think her performance leans too much towards the melodramatic, meaning she didn't need to try so hard to be hard-core.
Overall, I very much appreciate how the director took his time with the plot. He didn't rush us into the arena. The build-up is so important: the tour that the Hunger Games tributes must take of the districts, the pain of having to face the family of Rue, a young girl who died in the previous games, the fomenting revolution... Any other director might have cut corners in order to get to the meat of the story, but Francis Lawrence didn't. The special effects are stunning and terrifying, and the costumes, sets, and make-up as gorgeous as in the first film. Like so many other fans, I can't wait for Mockingjay, movie number three. In the meantime, I'll probably watch Catching Fire again. It's an incredibly satisfying depiction of the second instalment of everyone's favourite series.

Movie reviewed by Georgina Young-Ellis

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