The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: The IMAX Experience (12A)

Action (2013)
146mins US

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hucherson, Donald Sutherland, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, Sam Claflin
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writer(s): Simon Beaufoy, Michael Arndt
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark return from the 74th Hunger Games to friends and family in District 12 as heroes. Celebrations are short-lived because Katniss and Peeta are required to embark on a tour of the districts to celebrate their victory, forcing them to leave behind their loved ones. As they visit these districts, which are all under the control of President Snow and the Capitol, Katniss senses rebellion in the air, inspired by her refusal to play by the rules.

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LondonNet Film Review
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Built on the robust foundations of last year's opening salvo, Catching Fire is a lean and muscular sequel, which strikes a pleasing balance between brawn and brains...

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. LionsgateThe final hour of Francis Lawrence's film might be devoted to the 75th annual Hunger Games, a televised battle royale pitting combatants against one another in a booby-trapped arena. Yet the director and scriptwriters Michael Arndt and Simon Beaufoy aren't in a hurry to bludgeon us with bloodshed and savagery. They invest precious time in developing sinewy emotional bonds between characters and light the fuse on civil unrest that will explode in the concluding chapter, Mockingjay, which has been split into two films a la Harry Potter and Twilight. Unlike its predecessor, the second instalment didn't require cuts by UK censors to the onscreen violence to secure its 12A certificate. Yet Catching Fire is every bit as unrelentingly grim and brutal, including a wince-inducing scene of flagellation at the hands of a sadistic commander (Patrick St Esprit) and a moment of heartbreaking self-sacrifice.

The film opens with resilient heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) back in District 12, hunting alongside her beau, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). They steal a kiss in secret before Katniss returns to the Victors' Village to continue her fake romance with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) for the cameras. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is waiting for her. "I think we'll make this whole situation a lot simpler by agreeing not to lie to each other," growls Snow, who threatens Gale's life if Katniss steps out of line. Flanked by booze-sodden mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) and sartorially daring escort Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Katniss and Peeta tour the districts and scent rebellion in the air. Meanwhile, Snow recruits a new Games creator, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), to stage a special anniversary tournament known as the Quarter Quell, which will pit the darlings of District 12 against former winners in the ultimate duel of death. In the arena, Katniss and Peeta risk everything once again to keep each other alive, forging alliances with cocksure Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and his elderly mentor Mags (Lynn Cohen), quixotic duo Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) and Wiress (Amanda Plummer) and rabble-rousing loose cannon, Johanna Mason (Jena Malone).

Running six minutes longer that the first film, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire whets the appetite nicely for a devastating final stand. The script turns up the heat on the central love triangle to a brisk simmer, while Lawrence and Hutcherson expertly navigate their characters' conflicting emotions, leavened by comic relief courtesy of Stanley Tucci as flamboyant TV host Caesar Flickerman. With an extra 50 million dollars in the sequel's budget, production design doesn't disappoint, not least costume designer Trish Summerville, who pulls out the stops for Effie's wacky wardrobe that includes a dress festooned with monarch butterflies. Most of the violence in the arena takes place off screen but as the cliffhanger ending of the sequel makes clear - before every storm, there is a lull. Take a deep breath, while you still can.

- Kim Hu

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Lionsgate

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