Second ‘Hunger Games’ Installment Wows

Typically a sequel to a blockbuster adaptation would be shrugged off and left to those looking for something easy to digest, but the newest addition to the Hunger Games franchise shattered those expectations.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) returns after winning the tumultuous 74th Hunger Games alongside her faux-love-interest, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). With rebellion looming in the Capitol, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) looks to find a way to quell the spirits and hopefulness of the masses, who turn to "the girl on fire" as a beacon of change. In a cunning and devious plot, Snow gathers previous winners and pits them against each other in the Quarter Quell, an attempt to shake thoughts of rebellion and the notion of champion invincibility.

A largely effective ensemble cast makes for consistent intrigue throughout the entirety of the film, especially with returning cast members Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci and Liam Hemsworth, who all help in building a vast and at times gripping plot. Philip Seymour Hoffman, a newcomer to the series, also adds a dash of complexity and depth to an already engrossing story with his portrayal of Plutarch Heavensbee.

Francis Lawrence acts as the film's new director, succeeding Gary Ross, which proved to be a step forward for the series, as "The Hunger Games" fell short in numerous ways. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" takes a closer look into the continually intensifying relationships Katniss endures both romantically and politically. Jennifer Lawrence has truly found a niche for her character and has developed her into someone so tangible and relatable that it becomes easy to feel empathy for Katniss.

A film with a running time of two and a half hours is often unattractive to many moviegoers, but not a single minute is wasted in "Catching Fire"; it is paced so that new developments constantly arise and various sub plots emerge.

Fans of the Suzanne Collins's novels, on which the films are based, will not be disappointed, as many book lovers often are in film adaptations, because the film stays true to its roots and gracefully transfers the words on page to film language on screen.

The filmmakers and cast of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" simply got it right. They did not make the mistake of over embellishing the romance or the violence but found an excellent medium that resonated with a wide variety of viewers both newly and formerly introduced to the series.

Ending with one of the most captivating cliffhangers seen in recent memory, audiences will be hankering for the next film, but in the meantime will just have to rely on the books to get them through the wait.