Here’s my review of Catching Fire. If you’re read and enjoyed the book and/or saw and enjoyed The Hunger Games: go see it. It’s great. You probably don’t even need me to tell you that. But here are some things I’ll tell you about the movie (no spoilers).
1. All new casting is perfect, particularly some of the new tributes: Sam Clafin as Finnick, Jeffrey Wright as Beetee, Amanda Plummer as Wiress, and Jena Malone as Johanna Mason. Just perfect.
2. As with the first movie, you’re best served by Catching Fire if you read the book first. Even clocking it at nearly 2 1/2 hours, the story feels condensed–rushed almost–and loses suspense and marvelous details in the process. Those who have read the book, though, will feel the emotional resonance of all of the big scenes.
3. I liked Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, the new gamemaker, but would it kill anyone to put some Capitol makeup on this guy? In all of his scenes, all I could think was, “oh, look. There’s Philip Seymour Hoffman.” He could have used some transformation.
4. I hope there’s some Academy Award love for costume designer Trish Summerville. Effie’s wardrobe is inspired, as is the most important Katniss dress, and I would love a tie-in retail knitwear line. I want to wear all of the sweaters Katniss wears in District 12.
5. This movie seemed a little less violent than the first. Perhaps it’s because the arena is filled with (OK this is a little spoiler if you haven’t read the book) adults and not kids.
6. I will always be team Peeta. Liam Hemsworth makes Gale even more meh than in the books. (Obviously, I know others will disagree with me here.)
7. I didn’t know anything about Jennifer Lawrence before seeing Hunger Games, but of course, the world has gotten to know everyone’s BFF. I wondered if that would be distracting, and it was, but only for about 5 minutes until she disappears into the role of Katniss. She’s a terrific actress.
8. The arena is very entertaining and it looks almost exactly like I pictured it.
9. It’s great fun to watch Katniss (man, this might be a little spoilery, too) work in a team. Her isolation in the first movie is so important, but it’s nice to have dialog. And Finnick. Lots of Finnick.
10. I’m not going to get all whiny about things excluded as the book became a movie, but there’s one detail, and I’d argue that it’s one of the most critical ones in the book, that doesn’t make it to the screen in the scene at the party in the Capitol when Katniss meets Plutarch Heavensbee.
UPDATE: I forgot to add a note about IMAX. I paid the extra dough to see it in IMAX and I wasn’t wowed to the tune of an extra 7 bucks on the ticket price. It looked great, but it’s a gritty movie that’s not particularly enhanced by seeing that much of it. I’d have been just as happy seeing it on the regular screen.