Part 2 of “The Hunger Games” movies is “Catching Fire,” and it is one of those rare sequels where it’s better than the first movie.  Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) and Josh Hutcherson (Peeta), survivors of the previous Hunger Games, are now paraded around the Districts to be shills for the government that oppresses them.  To make things worse, Donald Sutherland (President of the Capitol) is still stewing about how Lawrence and Hutcherson survived the previous H.G.  You see, there should only be one survivor; but Lawrence and Hutcherson made a daring move to kill themselves instead of one having to kill the other…supposedly for love.  Public outcry forced the hand of the Capitol to alter the rules just this one time, and have 2 survivors.

Too bad that Sutherland doesn’t believe in all that love crap.  Plus he sees the final actions of Lawrence and Hutcherson in the previous H.G. as a big “F.U.” to the Capitol and everything tyrannical that it stands for.  And he’s right.  Fearing that the unwashed masses will be emboldened by what they have seen in the final moments of the last H.G., Sutherland threatens Lawrence’s family and psuedo-boyfriend (Liam Hemsworth) to force Lawrence to prove to all the people that what she did was for love, and not some rebellious act against the government.

Well, it’s hard to fake love; and rebellion has already taken hold like wildfire, regardless of the shilling Lawrence and Hutcherson do.  Sutherland, naturally, gets pissed off, and decides to take it out on Lawrence and Hutcherson by putting them in the upcoming Hunger Games.  Yeah, yeah, the previous winners are supposed to be excluded from the Hunger Games “lottery,” but once again, the Capitol has changed the rules.  All players of the upcoming Games are now previous champions.  And adults.   And experienced killers.  And this is one reason why “Catching Fire” is better than the first movie.

In the first movie, some of the players (called Tributes) were little kids.  Many of the younger kids were getting slaughtered easily and early in the Hunger Games.  It’s not that I have a big soft spot for kids — I actually don’t like rugrats.  It’s that there wasn’t much of a challenge for a six foot teenager weighing 180 pounds to beat to death a 100 pound, 5 foot tall girl.  Sure, they get a chance to snag some weapons, but many of the fights were seriously lopsided.  “Catching Fire” gives us fights that are more evenly matched.

Another thing that makes “Catching Fire” superior to the first movie is that once the Tributes are in the arena, there is very little interruption of the arena sequences.  In the previous movie, we’re bombarded with the audience, sponsors, family members of Tributes, and the coaches of the Tributes watching the H.G., slowing the pace and reducing the intensity of the Games.

One intense part of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is one of my memorable moments of this movie.  It is the sequence when Lawrence/Hutcherson and another Tribute ally are surrounded by vicious baboons — I think they were baboons, but they could have been U.S. Senators/Congressmen on the hunt for young interns.  The tributes do a fighting retreat, and the slightest mistake could mean a painful death by being ripped apart by dozens of 5 inch fangs.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Catching Fire” is the scene when an old man quietly holds up his hand to form a symbol of respect for Lawrence.  This hand gesture is now seen by the Capitol as a symbol of rebellion, and the old man is violently pulled aside by soldiers and shot.  The old man probably knew the ramifications of his action, yet he still did it.   One spark among many that would ignite a full-fledged rebellion.

For those who think you can’t change the world because you’re just one person, keep this in mind: when one person stands up and says “no,” governments tremble.  One small act of defiance could light the world on fire.

–M

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