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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Films spawning sequels seems obligatory these days.  Whilst this has been around since movies were invented, it has recently reached an apex.  Almost every blockbuster hit leads to further instalments decreasing the element of risk for cinema’s bean-counters.  ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ is no exception.  This follow-up to the initial hit was made while the first screened to huge success.  Helping the success was an audience who had read Suzanne Collins’ novels with this latest entry capturing what made them enduring.

 

Embarking on a ‘Victor’s Tour’ after their previous Hunger Games win, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) sense trouble.  Discovering their win has galvanised those living in their impoverished home district, they see the beginnings of a rebellion.  Determined to control this simmering unrest corrupt President Snow (Donald Sutherland) organises another deadly games tournament.  Forced to participate, Katniss and Peeta must win against the odds in order to save their people.

 

Tougher and more interesting than similar franchises, ‘The Hunger Games’ series builds on its strengths.  ‘Catching Fire’ directly continues from where it left off with hardly any pause for breath.  That’s the best thing that can be said for the sequel – despite its long run-time it moves briskly.  The concept and characters are engaging with Francis Lawrence’s direction blending action and drama with ease.  She ensures ‘Catching Fire’ has its’ own identity whilst continuing the elements which made the first captivating.

 

The performers dive into the story’s rugged spirit with aplomb.  Sutherland especially enjoys his scene-chewing villain with new characters adding fresh dynamics.  The Big Brother/Survivor-esque motif on the public’s lust for ‘reality TV’ is wickedly skewered with a production design doubly revelling in grim poverty and gaudy excess.  The scenes within the games itself are quite tense with nature’s controlled fury consistently increasing the threat level.

 

Having the courage of its convictions with a more adult approach, ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ makes fine use of the source material.  It does the job of any good sequel by crafting further adventures for its protagonists whilst leaving viewers hungry for more.

 

Rating out of 10:  8

 

 

Ender’s Game

‘Ender’s Game’ is a modern-day equivalent of a war movie.  Where John Wayne used to battle the ‘red menace’ with gay abandon in various films, the human race has to conquer aliens.  This enables the script to side-step any question of political incorrectness with Hollywood knowing not to offend any potential money-making territory.  Based on Orson Scott Card’s book series, ‘Ender’s Game’ envelopes itself in an aura of techno-wizardry as the struggle for humanity’s survival commences.

 

For decades, Earth has been under attack from an evil race called the Formics.  Pounding the populace with their superior technology, it seems the end of civilisation is nigh.  Refusing to give in, military chief Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) enlists the services of skilled teenager Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield).  Versed in the ways of brinkmanship, his talents are put to good use as he aims to crush the enemy into submission.

 

Like any good science fiction tale ‘Ender’s Game’ uses real-world issues to spin its yarn.  The way children and young adults are raised on computer games and how others manipulate this is seen.  Wiggin’s abilities are a boon for an army keen on utilising any weapon.  How his strategic eye is exploited is interestingly conveyed.  The way each tactical manoeuvre is handled together with his growing achievements is shot with flair by Director Gavin Hood.

 

Despite the controversy caused by its author’s comments, the intricate plot is reasonably developed.  Whilst some elements don’t work such as Wiggin’s connection with the aliens, his development into a natural leader maintains attention.  Butterfield embodies his role well with Ford’s convincing portrayal of a soldier adept at pushing his charges and keeping secrets.  The pacing suffers slightly from too many combat simulation sequences although issues regarding bullying and self-esteem provide it with edge.

 

War films will never go out of flavour no matter the era.  ‘Ender’s Game’ features a multitude of battles sure to please die-hard enthusiasts.  Fans of the book series should be pleased with an adaptation steeped war mythology without glorifying it.

 

Rating out of 10:  7