Director: Francis Lawrence
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Willow Shields, Jena Malone, Sam Claflin, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Running time: 145 minutes
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Score: 9/10

Moreso than The Hunger Games and Twilight, The Hunger Games (2012) and Catching Fire should never occupy the same sentence. The sequel to Suzanne Collins' blockbuster book series is leaps and bounds more emotionally provocative, thrilling, and introspective than the first installment, which, as you may recall, was directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit—should've been a red flag in the first place). Experienced action director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) takes advantage of the series' weighty themes—revolution, loyalty, sacrifice, oppression, and the effects of war—and spins them to create a film that feels like the big "Fuck you, Big Brother!" it should be. Lawrence forgoes the jarringly happy greenery and cheap bottle of sunshine and smiles sprinkled in the first flick for a grey wash that sets the doom-and-gloom tone of Catching Fire. Think less Walt Disney and more David Fincher.

Months after winning the Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) embark on the annual Victory Tour, a trip around the districts to essentially pretend the tributes killed in battle ain't no big thing. Making the task even more difficult is the fact that the couple have to continue to pretending to be in love with each other, the only reason why former gamekeeper Seneca Crane (now dead) kept them alive in the first place. But with Everdeen growing as a symbol of hope against the oppressive government, the ruthless President Snow (Donald Sutherland), along with new gamekeeper Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), are looking for a way to destroy her: reaping the tributes of the 75th Hunger Games from the exisiting pool of victors. Katniss Everdeen is back in the arena, but this time, in solidarity with the other tributes, the only enemy is Capitol.

But we'll spare you more prose about the greatness of sequel and get to the bare bones. Here are seven ways Catching Fire makes The Hunger Games look like some weak shit. 

1. Effie Trinket is portrayed as less of a mannequin and more like a real human, despite looking like the girls at Sephora.

Catching Fire

The Hunger Games

2. Writers Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt make it a point to make Prim—the entire reason for Katniss' involvement in the Games—feel forebodingly omnipresent, rather than just a dependent little sister. "Ugh, I guess I'll volunteer..." 

Catching Fire

The Hunger Games

 

3. The arena scenes don't make you want to vomit.

Catching Fire

The Hunger Games

4. The other tributes exhibit more of a connection to each other, rather than simply being obnoxious dicks only meant to antagonize Katniss.

Catching Fire

The Hunger Games

 

5. Team Gale fans who became invested in the couple after reading the first book finally have visual proof that the romance wasn't all in their erotic fanfiction. 

Catching Fire

The Hunger Games

6. Killings feel more like they'll actually give you PTSD and less like an inconsequential fact of life—or something to frolick in fields over. 

Catching Fire

The Hunger Games

7. Jennifer Lawrence's increasingly developed chops translate into a performance that's more deserving of an Oscar than her role in Silver Linings Playbook.

Catching Fire

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