But thanks to another extraordinary leading lady performance from Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) as heroic protagonist Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is even better than its predecessor. Explosive, shocking and moving, this time the stakes are even higher for Katniss and her two love interests Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth).
Having narrowly escaped death in the last Games, Katniss and Peeta are forced by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) to continue their star-crossed-lovers routine to quash a potential rebellion from the districts. However, the plan fails and Snow subsequently attempts to stop the uprising by sending previous champions from the districts back into the dreaded arena for the 75th Anniversary Quarter Quell Games.
Lawrence’s performance as Katniss is dominant, determined and incredibly empowering. Elsewhere, Stanley Tucci puts in another dazzling display as TV-host Caesar Flickerman, whilstnewcomers Sam Claflin (Finnick) and Jena Malone (Joanna) are both strong, feisty additions. Elizabeth Bank’s interpretation of District 12 escort Effie also deserves a mention, as Effie’s emotional resolve and endearing persona burst forth from beneath the layers of wigs and make-up.
Taking over from Gary Ross, new director Francis Lawrence (not related to Jennifer) does an admirable job, whilst co-writers Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) effectively script Suzanne Collins’ marvellous novel, even if the film does drag a little.
Dramatic, gritty and inspiring, Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a must watch piece of cinema that will leave you longing incessantly for more. Roll on the Mockingjays