The Hunger Games: Catching Fire sees Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) a little on edge after winning the 74th Hunger Games alongside Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) in the first film. Not difficult to see why when she had to participate in bumping off a number of her peers from other districts.
President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is still rather peeved that she was instrumental in showing him up by revealing her trick with the ol’ poison berries and leading to their success in the arena, since if future contestants try the same tactic then it’ll, once again, make him look like a prize tit. To counter this, Snow wants the pair to go on tour, promoting the Games, and making it look like they’re madly in love as opposed to a reluctant last option on Take Me Out. If she manages it, then that’s all good. If she doesn’t, then he won’t take kindly to her defiance. And by “won’t take kindly”, I mean, he’ll wipe District 12 off the map.
Now, where do Katniss and Peeta go on their tour? Empire State Building? The Hollywood Bowl? No, all the other districts. Because that’s exactly what those residents want to see – the people who bumped off their residents.
This time round, it’s, as you’d expect, the 75th Hunger Games, and the Third Quarter Quell, a QQ being the time when they do things a little bit differently to celebrate 25 more years. The special event on display is that this year’s contestants will be made up from previous victors, regardless of their current age. And some of them are way past their best. Still, on the plus side, it means that instead of spotty, whiny teenagers, we get Jeffrey Wright (Beetee) and the delightfully wacky Amanda Plummer (Wiress).
Philip Seymour Hoffman takes over as Head Gamemaker Plutocratic Humvee… I mean, Plutarch Heavensbee. Yes, there’s hardly anyone in this saga with a sensible name. Seriously, this is one of his final roles, one for which he’d already filmed the majority of his scenes for both Mockingjay sequels.
I saw the first Hunger Games film the night before i watched Catching Fire. I don’t read books so I don’t know the outcome of any of the characters before I see it played out in the film. However, while I can see that a female heroine makes them films aimed at the female market, they’re still a reasonable way for a bloke to pass two-and-a-half hours. That said, still be aware of the fact that it takes a good hour or so, once again, before it gets to the Games in question.
Go to page 2 for more thoughts on the film and the extras.
One thing I would like to drum into the heads of distributors is that they shouldn’t cut films for the cinema with the sole purpose of bums on seats. While this hasn’t happened to Catching Fire, it did happen to the first film where the 12-cert lost some of the violence in the cinema and on DVD, with only the Blu-ray being an uncut 15-cert. This preposterousness was best summed up last year by Mark Kermode in a great video where he points out, in the light of A Good Day To Die Hard, that in days gone by, you used to get the uncut version in the cinema and the cut version at home, and now it’s completely turned the other way round, as they cut films to a 12A so that even my five-year-old nephew could go and see Bruce Willis bump off bad guys. Which, for a Die Hard film, is as ridiculous as the day is long.
Going back to Hunger Games 1, and despite seeing it in its full version, it wasn’t as violent as I was expecting. That might’ve been due to all the hype surrounding the uncut-ness.
The sequel also sees a change in director from Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) to Francis Lawrence, who is in it for the rest of the Hunger Games duration and while he hasn’t made too many movies yet, I did quite enjoy his take on I Am Legend, even though it wasn’t perfect.
A change in director also sees a change in the way the film is made, and a large portion of this film was shot in IMAX. In fact, around 50 minutes of the film was shot in IMAX, with those scenes presented in such auditoriums at an opened-up ratio of 1.44:1. Obviously, your TV is most likely going to be 1.78:1 (16:9), so this offers a better compromise to get as much impact as possible at home. While I didn’t see Catching Fire at the cinema, I saw The Dark Knight Rises there and they also used a combination of 2.35:1 and 16:9 – changing back and forth as it went. I later saw it on Blu-ray and the 1.78:1 compromise was perfectly acceptable. Just think that the alternative would be with it all taking place in the centre of your screen – it’d feel weird. Note that Catching Fire changes to IMAX for the duration of the arena scenes, only changing back to 2.35:1 for the closing scenes.
And I love how the transition is done with the black bars opening up as Katniss is lifted high up into the gaming arena.
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, aside from the IMAX section as previously described, and in 1080p high defintion. As you’d expect, the print is pin-sharp, highly-detailed and looks splendid when ‘the fog’ comes calling…
The audio is in DTS 7.1 HD Master Audio, for which I’m watching in 5.1, and it makes great use of directional sound in the arena, particularly with the Jabberjays, screaming birds which mimic the sound of distressed voices of those they know and love, flying about all over the place with the sound following their every move. And there’s a lot of them.
There’s also a Dolby Surround version which is described curiously as “Optimised for late night listening”. Nah, give me the full-on version!
The extras on this disc are all in HD and are as follows:
- Surviving The Game: Making The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2:24:55): Almost as long as the film itself, this ‘making of’ mixes clips of the film with chat from key cast and crew members, looking back to the first film and split into nine parts.
First looking at filming the sequel, including the change in director was down to Gary Ross not being available for such a fast turnaround of three more films over the next three years; set design featuring some concept art; the cast; costume, make-up & hair; on-set production in Atlanta; stunts & weapons; on-set production in Hawaii; post-production; and a final piece which looks back at what we’ve seen as well as a look to what’s to come. This is clearly a must for all big fans of the film.
- Deleted Scenes (4:35): Five of them here. There’s nothing that desperately needs to go back into the film but even if they did then it’d be just another five minutes.
- One Vision (12:38): Disc 2 starts with a piece where the cast and crew give their views on how they wanted to stay as true to the book as possible, so as to retain Suzanne Collins’ original vision, as opposed to inventing anything.
- The Alliance (14:27): A look at the returning cast including Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci and Lenny Kravitz to name but five.
- Friend or Foe (18:25): And a look at the new cast members including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Claflin, Lynn Cohen, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer and more.
To be honest, since the first disc was so packed, I thought the second one would be as well.
- Audio commentary: with director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson.
The main menu mixes shots from the film with the Games’ triumphant music. There are subtitles in English, and more chapters than most discs with 16 here, but for such a long film it still needs more. I feel one should come every five minutes on average.
All the versions available:
A variety of DVD and Blu-Ray editions have been confirmed: Alongside a 1-disc DVD, Lionsgate UK will also release a Limited Edition 2-Disc DVD and 2-Disc Blu-ray (a Triple Play which also includes a DVD and UltravioletTM digital copy) both of which will be loaded with over 130 minutes of bonus content.
In addition, Lionsgate UK are also releasing a Steelbook version of the Triple Play and The Hunger Games/Catching Fire Double Feature on Blu-ray and DVD. Finally, a Limited Deluxe Edition with six-disc set containing both films on all formats, art cards, exclusive content and features, available exclusively from Amazon UK.
All Blu-ray editions of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire include an Ultraviolet digital copy, and special features include filmmaker commentary & deleted scenes.
Running time: 146 minutes
Released: March 17th 2014
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Panavision)/1.78:1 (IMAX)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Francis Lawrence
Producers: Nina Jacobson and Jon Kilik
Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy and Michael deBruyn (based on the novel by Suzanne Collins)
Music: James Newton Howard
Katniss Everdeen: Jennifer Lawrence
Gale Hawthorne: Liam Hemsworth
Peeta Mellark: Josh Hutcherson
Haymitch Abernathy: Woody Harrelson
President Snow: Donald Sutherland
Plutarch Heavensbee: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Effie Trinket: Elizabeth Banks
Katniss’ Mother: Paula Malcomson
Primrose Everdeen: Willow Shields
Cinna: Lenny Kravitz
Caesar Flickerman: Stanley Tucci
Beetee: Jeffrey Wright
Wiress: Amanda Plummer
Mags: Lynn Cohen
Claudius Templesmith: Toby Jones
Johanna Mason: Jena Malone
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.
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