Francis Lawrence's THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE
Review by Dennis D. McDonald
Personally I think Jena Malone would have been better as Katniss but it’s obviously too late for that.
CATCHING FIRE is a roller coaster of a movie. We spend the first half in the station twiddling our thumbs while watching dumb things happen, then the bottom drops out and we careen down a long slope with an adrenaline rush.
I was afraid it was going to fall asleep as I had done during the previous Hunger Games movie. With hashed-over dystopian political themes wrapped around hackneyed adolescent angst during the first half of this movie I contemplated pulling out my iPhone for quick podcast fix. Once we moved into a splendidly produced mega episode of LOST, though, my attention was engaged.
Dissecting my disaffection into part bad dialogue, silly story, and just plain “dumb” doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. I’m always willing to suspend disbelief if there are redeeming elements of good entertainment. My biggest disappointment with the movie is with the star, Jennifer Lawrence. Having seen this young woman in Debra Granik’s superb WINTERS BONE I was expecting a lot more. Unfortunately, based on what I see in Catching Fire she has a very limited dramatic range. Yes, she is very kinetic and movement oriented but never once did I really feel what was going on in her head either emotionally or intellectually.
Perhaps this is the director’s fault and he’s just good at action but incapable of drawing out or portraying real feelings of betrayal, fear, anguish, hatred, or love. She’s not the only one misused. The seniors in the film walk through their parts, too. (Personally I think Jena Malone would have been better as Katniss but it’s obviously too late for that.)
My comment coming out of the theater was that it is sad to see such vast and impressive artistic and production resources devoted to such shallow material and performances. Perhaps the final 2 films in the series will be better.
Review copyright © 2014 by Dennis D. McDonald