You’ve got to feel sorry for Katniss Everdeen. The hero of any story has to be prepared for a bit of pain and suffering, but she’s really being put through the mill. After emerging triumphant at the end of The Hunger Games, saving both her own life and that of her soft-of-almost-boyfriend’s through a clever bit of trickery, you’d think she’d be allowed to relax for a while. But no. No, things are about to get much, much worse for Katniss…
Catching Fire picks up more or less where the first film left off. Katniss and Peeta have returned home to District 12, where they’re rewarded with huge new houses and all the food they can eat, but that doesn’t mean they can live happily ever after. Winning the Hunger Games comes with more than just a material prize – Victors can also look forward to traumatic flashbacks, constant nightmares, and an inability to let their guard down, ever again. And for Katniss in particular, there’s an added bonus: because her public act of defiance has sparked a rebellion in the Districts, she’ll either have to become the Capitol’s puppet, or the President will kill everyone she loves, as a little reminder of who’s really in charge.
Thanks to the careful world-building in The Hunger Games, Catching Fire is able to cut straight to the emotional meat of the story without worrying too much about scene-setting. Panem is a cruel place, and the entire first hour of the film is devoted to showing just how much worse things have got since we last visited – it’s raw, painful, and devastatingly effective. Katniss might be a symbol of hope for the Districts, but she’s also just a girl, and each new act of violence affects her deeply.
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