There’s something unique about the Hunger Games series. Yes, you could say comparing it to other successful young adult adaptations in recent years, it has the potential early workings of a love triangle like that of Twilight and the collective zany names of characters from Harry Potter, but it’s certainly unique.
Suzanne Collins’ trilogy welcomes and introduces the idea of rebellion, exploitative media and violence with open arms to its young target audience whilst creating a gripping story to accompany its ideas. Gary Ross’ opening movie to the franchise was a perilous and deeply affecting depiction of a future world in which Katniss Everdeen became the newest female leader for a generation. And she’s all the more heroic once again.
After her rebellious actions at the conclusion of the last film, our hero Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) is thrown into the deadly arena once again for the 75th year of the Hunger Games. This time around, she’s up against previous winners in a special edition games, with skilled and experienced tributes in her way. With the all seeing, all powerful Capitol hoping to end Katniss, thus stopping the uprising in the twelve districts, it’s up to the girl on fire to become the symbol of hope.
One of the main themes of this series is that of dependency, and what it means to think and act on your instincts and decisions. And while the action inside the arena may not feel as perilous this time around, that sense of trust and teamwork is all the more important which the film uses to dramatic effect. While it may lose the horror and shocking events of the arena last time, it makes up for that in the grand scheme of the uprising. That ‘kids killing kids’ aspect maybe its core reason the games this time don’t feel as dangerous – but the arena and atmosphere almost becomes a character itself, coming into play more predominantly.
Even with the book itself being the better of the three, it’s not without its weaknesses that at least the film does try to tackle. Introducing a new array of characters in the form of the veteran tributes, whilst mapping out a whole new venue for the perilous fighting to take place does in some ways mirror the first film almost set piece by piece. You have to get through the ceremonial aspects to get to the arena, which the film just about gets away with. It could have fallen into repetitiveness but given the book does that anyway, the film does the best it can.
One of the joys is to finally see the outside desolate world of Panem open up, visiting new districts and locations on skipped over from movie one. Director Francis Lawrence, famous for making I Am Legend, almost brings that barren end-of-the- world feel to the mills, factories and winter-strewn landscape of the book’s setting. You have the two things pulling in opposite directions by having the poorer citizens aching day to day life juxtaposed with the wildly designed luxury of the rich few. Showcased as our hero Peeta, is handed a drink that will make you vomit, while his home district go starved. Adding more wealth to the rich and batting down the poor makes the sense of rebellion seem even more plausible to grasp, to the director’s credit.
Jennifer Lawrence is, as ever, terrific. With that raw, unashamed attitude we’ve known her do so well fitting perfectly into a character capable of becoming the symbol of hope to the people, yet playing the terrified and distraught female hero in the times of hardship. With that said, some of the returning supporting characters felt a little shadowed in comparison, love interests Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) do their jobs perfectly fine but it’s Katniss’ journey and eye view of events that are the main draw. Sam Claflin plays the charismatic third-wheel tribute Finnick Odair well and even wiser experienced additions in the form of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeffrey Wright add weight to the franchise.
With its structure maybe appearing all too familiar to fans, it’s the themes, ideas and surprising twists that make this a welcomed sequel. Both the Lawrence’s have bridged the gap beautifully between upping the stakes from its opening chapter and setting up something potentially special when the final book comes to the big screen.