Movie review: “Catching Fire”

Stanley Tucci and Jennifer Lawrence in "Hunger Games: Catching Fire."

Stanley Tucci and Jennifer Lawrence in “Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”

By Sarah Cooperman E Pluribus Unum

For too many years, the narrow portfolio of female action heroes was limited to stars like Angelina Jolie, who had to fight in tight tank tops and short-short-shorts. While Jolie is not a bad actress, she was often cast in roles in which her spectacular, uh, assets were best on display.

That’s why it’s so great to see Jennifer Lawrence continue to shine in the “Hunger Games” with the second installment in the film series, “Catching Fire.”

Lawrence (as Katniss Everdeen) is the sole indispensible actor in this adaptation of the Suzanne Collins about an ugly future where the public is given a lot of circuses (in the form of the only-one-survivor games) but not much in the way of bread.

Her character evolves along predictable but pleasing lines; going from a fierce individualism to a greater willingness to combine with others to fight the power, so to speak.

She projects that fierce but caring look well, painting for us a picture of a character torn between emotions of anger and love.

Oh, wait … are there other people in this movie? I hardly notice Josh Hutcherson  and Liam Hemsworth (Peeta and Gale, or is it Gale and Peeta?) who are more-or-less interchangeable beefcake. It’s fun to watch former radical icon Donald Sutherland as the autocratic President Snow.

My favorite character other than Katniss continues to be Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), the smarmy host of the decadent games.  The manner in which the games echo the disgusting “reality” TV shows of today help this film series – and, of course, the books – offer a good commentary on contemporary mores as well as an engrossing adventure series.

posterhunger_games_catching_fire_motion_posterThe plot is serviceable; Katniss and other Games survivors are drawn back into deadly competition with a trumped-up kind of playoff system. As she and possible boypal Peeta do pre-tournament publicity, they can see the growing resistance movement of which she has become a symbolic rallying point.

Where will it all end? Well, there’s a third movie in the series, and this is Hollywood, so you don’t have to be Nostradamus to make a pretty good guess. But where this series takes the possibilities of strong, smart female heroes is more in doubt.

But I have my hopes. If I ever have a daughter, I am definitely naming her Katniss.

Sarah’s score: B+.

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