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.The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The have-nots are coming.

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Effie Trinket, contact your broker. Liquidate your entire portfolio. You too, Caesar Flickerman. The revolution is afoot. And Katniss Everdeen is its leader.

When we last saw Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), the muscular-shouldered virgin huntress deity with the bow and arrows, she had triumphed in The Hunger Games, the cruel blood sport organized by the rulers of the plutocratic oligarchy of Panem to subjugate the proletarian masses in the various “districts” outside the capital and cull out rebellious youths, while simultaneously providing some decadent fight-to-the-death entertainment for the bored executive class.

Katniss and her District 12 co-competitor Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) emerged alive, but their victory rings hollow. Now, all-powerful President Snow (the ever-vulpine Donald Sutherland), in league with master game-maker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and handler Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), has ordered Katniss, Peeta, and other previous “tribute” victors to go back into the hellish simulated battle arena — to snuff out the sparks of rebellion. Irritating cheerleader Effie (Elizabeth Banks) and annoying emcee Caesar (Stanley Tucci), the comic-relief voices of the oligarchy, are whipping up the TV audience, but Katniss, Peeta, and the other gladiators are terminally surly. They don’t care if they live or die, they just want to fuck up the show.

Well-intentioned as it is, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, adapted by Simon Beaufoy and Michael deBruyn from Suzanne Collins’ novel, suffers from the perennial malady that afflicts second parts of trilogies. It’s stuck in the middle of the proceedings, neither fresh nor conclusive. The ending of Catching Fire is spoiled by our knowledge that there’s more to come and that Katniss can’t die until things are resolved. This installment, directed by former music-vid-maker Francis Lawrence, is thus more of a place-holder, a promise that the settling of accounts is not quite here yet.

Character kudos to Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer, and Sam Claflin as fellow killers. Lawrence is as stoically impressive as ever. The trap is set. The revolution is about to happen, but not until the two-part “final third,” in 2014 and 2015. Separate admissions, folks. (Katniss has her corporate masters and so do we.) But we expect heads to roll. It’s not exactly Eisenstein but we’ll take what we can get.


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