Whilst having never read the Hunger Games series of novels I remember going into the first film expecting something fun but aimed at the twilight audience. I came out pleasantly surprised by the complex dystopian future depicted and in turn the political, social and economic struggles of it's inhabitants. Yet I yearned for more, the first movie firmly focussing on the Hunger Games themselves and giving a background to their history and grounding within this universe.
So going in to the sequel 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' I was expecting very much a similar format. Thankfully my expectations were misaligned with the movies structure and I found myself thoroughly immersed within the excellent universe as the film spent a great deal of time showcasing and discussing the politics and it's social unrest. Whilst inevitably there would be a Hunger Games within the movie I was really pleased to see that it was placed in a secondary focus.
The film much like the first looked fantastic and much can be said for the excellent acting. Jennifer Lawrence was, as always superb in the lead role of Katniss Everdeen. The nuances to her performance and the portrayal of her ongoing anxieties caused from the first movies Hunger Games overshadow every aspect of her character and lead to a fantastic range of emotions being shown. She continues to surprise with the quality of acting throughout the film, including several scenes that involve what looks to be such excruciating pain that I found it hard not to want to turn away, it seemed so real.
The supporting cast were also excellent and made the universe all the more believable, Woody Harrelson is on fine form as the disgruntled yet caring former winner and mentor of Katniss and Peeta. With such a strong cast of actors it's no surprise the film feels so real.
Accompanying this is the fantastic design and imagining of the universe that they inhabit. The world seems so fully realised from the despair and poverty of district 12 through to the absolute decadence that the capital city in the film purveys. Donald Sutherland's President Snow is fantastically well realised and so calm and calculated that though clearly an oppressor, I wanted to know more about his motivations and his stringent views. It certainly seems that there is more to the characters motivation than simply the keeping of wealth and order. Perhaps this is something that is explored in the later books and consequently future movies.
The movie perfectly balances a mixture of action, drama and intelligent story telling to create both an excellent popcorn movie with enough layers of depth to give something further to those willing to invest. 'Catching Fire' is an excellent movie with a crop of fantastic actors, a beautifully realised world and a mature and poignant story that while on the surface will appeal to younger audiences, shows a great deal of scope and provides depth for maturer watchers to ingrain themselves within it's politics and social rigours.
An excellent film, take the time to involve yourself within it's universe and the scope that it has to offer.