Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Written by Simon Beaufay, Michael Arndt, Suzanne Collins
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutchinson, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Philip Seymour Hofflam, Jena Malone, Amanda Plummer

I have not read THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy, but I did see the first film and liked it enough to go to the second, For me, the most amazing thing about the second film is how much better it is than it needs to be. It manages to find a plot that satisfies the squealing teenage girls, their dates who crave action, and the adults that wander in with them. Much of this success, of course, is thanks to Suzanne Collins, the author and Jennifer Lawrence, the star. One gave birth to the books and the other gives a face to them. And it’s a face everyone loves. And I am not just talking about the audience.

Katniss Everdeen is making a victory tour (post HUNGER GAMES) along with her partner, Petta (Hutchinson) when she is called on by President Snow ( Sutherland). He informs her that her future rests on her ability to pacify the growing revolution by arousing public interest in a special set of games, held every 25 years, where she and Petta will again compete against other teams of previous Hunger Game winners. And a romance between the two is necessary to sustain interest.

Katniss is no revolutionary. Her sole goal is to stay alive, to keep her family from harm and starvation, and to settle down with her true love Gale (Hemsworth). But sometimes greatness is thrust upon us, and that is what happens to Katniss in CATCHING FIRE. If she won the first round through her intelligence and athleticism, she wins now through her charisma.

Jennifer Lawrence is very adept at making this plotline believable, much like the three heroes of the Harry Potter series. This is a complicated movie in many ways. Although there is plenty of action and enough romance and camaraderie, the growing dissatisfaction of the people in this dystopian society grows more palpable in the second installment and begins to take center stage. It reminds us, more than we like, of the growing disparity in our own society between the rich and the poor. It also takes on commercialism, the media, social justice, the manipulation of the powerless, and corrupt politicians.

The story is a balancing act that few films could succeed in making lucid, entertaining and compelling, but somehow it does. Highly recommended.

Patti Abbott