It’s pretty awful, as expected, so I’m sorry that I even bothered. In fact, it’s going to be some kind of feat for me to finish this series, with two more installments to go. I watched “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” bounce around in my Netflix queue for a number of weeks, before finally deciding to give it a shot. “Maybe, I’ll like this one”, I reasoned. The reviews were better for this first sequel—and from some of the nation’s top critics too. Also, since the original film opened, Jennifer Lawrence has received two additional Oscar nominations(that’s three total for Lawrence, including her 2010 Best Actress nom for “Winter’s Bone”), winning Best Actress(and charming just about everyone—me included)with her wise-beyond-years turn in 2012’s “Silver Linings Playbook”. Plus, “Catching Fire” would give us one of the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final completed screen roles. Also, the brilliant Amanda Plummer appears! But it’s all for naught. Cringe-inducing dialogue, overbearing performances, and those goddamn ridiculous names! This one is quite possibly inferior to its predecessor. Not even Lawrence is any good in it.
I can’t work up the energy to run down too much plot here, but the whole enterprise runs almost 2 and a half hours long—then ends abruptly. Of course, we’ll get the 3rd book(“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay”)adaptation meted out in two parts(what else is new?)in November 2014 and November 2015, respectively. Same dystopian society nonsense, followed by convoluted set-up for the 75th Hunger Games. Of course, the 74th was won by Katniss Everdeen(Ms. Lawrence, miles from her best work)and Peeta Mellark(a somewhat interesting, Josh Hutcherson), in the first film—the two “lovers” managing to manipulate a tie. For this story, Katniss and Peeta are called back into action(like the first installment, playing fast and loose with the so-called “rules”)for something called the Third Quarter Quell. This will include a slew of former winners in a sort of Hunger Games “all-star” face-off(do you think author Suzanne Collins watched reality shows “American Idol” and “Survivor” enough?). But before you even get to any PG-13 combat, you’ll struggle to keep your eyes open for over an hour’s worth of nonsense setup.
Btw, Amanda Plummer is completely wasted in the role of Wiress, and Philip Seymour Hoffman appears to have phoned it in as Plutarch Heavensbee. Also, the action scenes are neutered and uninspired. Remember, the books were meant for the young adult market. I roll my eyes when I see a “mature” person reading one of these. Woody Harrelson continues to have some fun as drunken mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, and Stanley Tucci hams it up again(but effectively)as Caesar Flickerman. But it’s still just a bunch of respected former Oscar nominees slumming it for a big paycheck—I guess you can’t blame them. I laughed out loud more than once at the embarrassing dialogue written by Simon Beaufoy and Michael deBruyn. “It’s not your sister, it’s just a jabberjay!”, is a paraphrased example of the atrocious yammering that I can’t inform you as to whether it’s in the book, or not, because I’ll never read them. I let down my guard in allowing “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” into my family room. Director Francis Lawrence took the reins from Gary Ross for this sequel(he helms the next two films, as well), but he failed in making me a convert. But this was the #1 domestic grosser of 2013, so he obviously doesn’t need my approval. His movie still stinks. Grade: C-