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Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The (Blu-ray Review)

27 Feb, 2014 By: John Latchem

Street 3/7/14
Box Office $423.65 million
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence and action, some frightening images, thematic elements, a suggestive situation and language.
Stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Donald Sutherland.

The plot of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire builds toward one of those big twists so often seen in movies that seeks to re-frame everything that came before. And yet, as the larger story takes focus there are moments that seriously undermine the idea that anything taking place was part of some cohesive plan.

The primary characters in Catching Fire, adapted from the second installment of the mega-popular book series, are putting a lot of faith in Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), whose performance in the Hunger Games from the first film has inspired the oppressed people of Panem to begin to defy the ruling political class. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) wants to publicly discredit her as a symbol of hope for the rebellion, and thus endorses a plan for the next Hunger Games that involves choosing only former winners. This also plays into the desire of the revolutionaries who want to solidify Katniss’ role as a freedom fighter. The fact that Katniss could have easily been killed several times in service of a scheme to keep her alive is probably not meant to detract from the viability of what they are hoping to accomplish.

Minor quibbles about world-building aside, Catching Fire is actually a well-crafted piece of entertainment and an improvement in a lot of ways over the first film, which did a good job establishing a future world in which the Hunger Games could exist, but fell short in making the games themselves as interesting. Catching Fire covers similar territory, though its all-star version of the games is more compelling because the stakes are much higher.

The tropical setting of the games look great in high-definition, a sharp contrast from the gritty portrayal of Katniss’ District 12 home. It helps that the film shifts its aspect ratio as the games begin to fill the screen with the bright greens and blues of the game arena.

Fans of the film will not be disappointed by the Blu-ray, which contains extensive behind-the-scenes material in the form of myriad featurettes that, when combined, constitute a two-and-a-half-hour documentary that reveals every last detail behind the making of the film. There’s also a commentary from the director and a producer that’s rather mundane by comparison, as well as four minutes of deleted scenes.

The featurettes are filled with interviews with almost everyone involved, including Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose death in February gives his footage a little extra poignancy.

There’s also a moment, amusing in retrospect, from actress Paula Malcomson, who plays Katniss’ mother and heaps praise on Jennifer Lawrence for taking the risk of anchoring a potential franchise at such a young age. These comments were clearly made before Catching Fire became the top-grossing film of 2013 at the domestic box office and climbed onto the all-time top 10 list. The $1.55 billion worldwide the two films have grossed so far certainly portends good fortune for the two films yet to come.

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