‘Catching Fire’ rises to the challenge

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” did not disappoint fans when it hit the box office. Following the first Hunger Games was a huge challenge, but “Catching Fire” lives up to, and in some respects surpasses, the first installment of the movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular series.

After returning as victor from the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen hopes to find rest and healing back home. She soon finds that her actions have ignited a flame in the dystopian society and that her dream of a peaceful life is not to be. The government throws Katniss into her worst nightmare: living a lie in order to protect her family from the Machiavellian President Snow.

This second installment proves itself to be just as action-packed and cinematically enthralling as the first. “Catching Fire” assures its audiences of a thrilling action movie with more fully developed characters than the first movie. Instead of paying particular attention to the atrocities of warfare themselves, as “The Hunger Games” did, “Catching Fire” instead looks at how these horrors affect the citizens of Panem.

While the first movie was frightening on a physical level at the prospect of being thrown into a life or death struggle, “Catching Fire” delves deeper into the emotional and mental effects of the games. Katniss now faces not only the haunting memories of her former experience but also the terror of obeying President Snow’s every wish. This film, true to the book, explores the horrifying concept of a government that can not only control its citizens’ physical lives, but their emotional and mental states as well.

The visual effects and costume designers once again outdo themselves in reinventing the Capitol and its flamboyant citizens. The movie bursts with color and life among the wealthy citizens and then starkly contrasts those people with the earthy, dirty commoners who grow weary of the government’s control over them. It is somewhat shocking to see the discrepancy of wealth thrown vividly on the screen.

I came into the movie with high expectations after reading the books and watching the first movie and can gratefully say that I was not disappointed. Familiar characters were further developed and complicated while new characters were quickly introduced and loved.

I was surprised by the amount of time that was spent developing the characters. The movie is sprinkled with intimate moments where characters let down their guard for small moments of time and allow the audience to see the inner workings of their minds; I really appreciated those unpretentious glimpses that give a break to the action and allow the audience to empathize with the situation.

“Catching Fire” will have you on the edge of your seat as you follow Katniss, Peeta and a host of other characters along the next stage of their journey as the world they live in is once again turned upside down.