Katniss Everdeen is a reality star. Since surviving the Hunger Games, she and fellow winner, Peeta Mellark travel the the country, visiting all the districts of Panem. After they threatened suicide during their first tour, their act of defiance has caused a swelling of hope. Her mockingjay emblem is emblazoned on walls, a battle cry for the impoverished souls.
President Snow (Donald Sutherland) visits our heroine early on. He is a paranoid and vindictive man. His cold demeanor and heart only serve to complement his namesake. Snow speaks of an uprising, in lieu of Katniss's immense popularity, but it's hard to view the proof. We are shown evidence of the contrary in fact. Armed guards (projecting their best Daft Punk impersonation) storm the various districts. Innocents are beaten and whipped, others killed, simply for voicing their support of Katniss. Their raised arms and three-fingered salutes are met with irreverence and bullets.
A refresher: 75 years ago, the 13 districts revolted against the Capitol, but when District 13 was razed under the Capitol's sizable might, the revolution was quashed as D13 was the driving force behind it. Since then, the Capitol has selected one male and one female from each district, yearly, to participate in a winner take all, battle to the death. The entire event is televised as a way to demonstrate how powerless the population truly is.
On this, the 75th year of the Hunger Games, President Snow comes up with a plan: to quell this newfound support, the combatants will be selected by a pool of previous winners only. Being District 12's only female victor, Katniss is resigned to her fate. She is joined once more by Peeta, who volunteers for a second tour after Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) is initially selected.
Katniss remains a ferocious markswoman. In training, she snipes pixelated figures with ease, garnering a captured audience. In the arena is no different. She fells foes effortlessly. Later, she picks off multiple 'jabberjays,' an avian mimicry expert, no bigger than a fist. Peeta on the other hand is utterly hopeless. Both in love and on the battlefield. The greatest miracle is how Peeta survives in his day-to-day life. Once he's thrust into his second Games, he nearly drowns, walks into an electric force field, is poisoned by a slow moving fog, and is attacked by some baboons. It's no wonder he volunteers as tribute; without Katniss around, he's about as competent as a blind and deaf kitten.
Katniss' romantic intentions remain a puzzling affair. She shows genuine affection for both Peeta and Gael (Liam Hemsworth), but seems unwilling, or unable to choose one. To solidify their worldwide support, the idea of marriage is brought up by Katniss which Peeta reluctantly agrees with. This act of solidarity seems goofy at best. Possibly because Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) looks 14-years-old.
The supporting characters are more fleshed out this time around. Due to this, when deaths occur, there's far more weight attached. Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer play past Games winners. Wright's Beetee Latier survived by hiding out and then electrocuted the few remaining players. The most interesting character is Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin). Finnick's former victory is thanks to cunning skill, and sheer brutality. His weapon of choice is a trident. A friggin' trident. He became a fast favorite of the Capitol, earning lavish gifts and justified praise. When he's sent back to the field of battle, a shift in priorities emerges, that toward his fellow District tribute, the elderly, Mags. Finnick is constantly seen tending to the woman, carrying her around and feeding her food. A heartfelt and surprising paradigm for the male archetype. Jena Malone is also fresh. She feigned vulnerable throughout training before axing her competitors to pieces. Her name is Johanna Mason. Her moniker is an enigma.
The rest of Panem is littered with those whose titles would fit right in with the world of Dr. Seuss. Plutarch Heavensbee, Effie Trinket, Claudius Templesmith. Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) is my personal favourite. Caesar is the announcer and commentator of the Hunger Games, and holds exclusive interviews with the tributes the night before the bloodshed. He sports flashy clothes, a ponytail, and heavy eye shadow. Flashy clothes, ponytails and eye shadow are a must when your name is Caesar Flickerman. It's impossible not to follow his maniacal laughter with a smile of your own.
You know by now that Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss. Her star can't possibly be brighter at present time, though Lawrence seems to abhor the celebrity spotlight, which only makes her Katniss all the more believable. Her natural vulnerability seeps through, whether she's tending to a fallen comrade, or reluctantly forced to take the life of another. I have yet to read the source material, but director Francis Lawrence has certainly upped the stakes from the first chapter. The story is filled with tension and agony. It leaves in obvious suspense; the third and final film in the series, MOCKINGJAY, is set to be released in two segments, in 2014 and 2015.
CATCHING FIRE further serves to illustrate the dichotomy of its social structures. In that sense, it's not a far cry to our reality. We're thankfully not watching children being massacred on live television (unless you count the nightly news), but there's an obvious and odd connection made between those that are on the 'Survivors' and the 'Amazing Races,' when it comes to blind adulation. These contestants have become the new age celebrity, becoming famous, strictly for the fact that they are seen and heard ad nauseam.
Katniss embodies hope, when there is none to be found. She's a reluctant leader, but also a necessary one for those that have been waiting for something, anything to grasp onto. She is bathed in light and forged from fire. The Capitol has seen a glimpse of what her celebrity is capable of. I'm eager to see how her saga concludes. Whether her spirit flourishes or is extinguished.