The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Sam Claflin, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz, Jena Malone

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Where's my review of the first Hunger Games movie? Cuz really Catching Fire is exactly the same film... only more so. The budget is bigger, the stakes are higher and the running time is even longer. Is this in its favour? Well...

Having won the 74th annual Hunger Games – a Battle Royale meets Running Man teen death match for those not in the know – Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) want nothing more than to retire into obscurity and quietly forget that fact that as far as their devoted fan base is concerned, they're a celebrity couple so in love they make Romeo and Juliet look indifferent to each other.

Elizabeth Banks as Effie and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

But such is not to be their fate. For Katniss has become a symbol of hope for the downtrodden proletariat, who slave and starve in the Districts while the chosen few gorge themselves sick in the Capital, sashaying about in ludicrously over-accessorised outfits as if vying for a part in the world's most expensive Adam Ant video. Alarmed and angered at this smouldering spark of rebellion, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) – whose snow-white locks and Father Christmas-style benevolence belie a ruthless will of steel – decides to rid himself of Katniss and all the other pesky Hunger Games winners by staging a celebrity version of the show in which the former victors must pick each other off. So it's back into the jungle for more adrenaline-fuelled action – just like last time, in fact.

Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair

This time round, however, we get new eye-candy from former winner Finnick (Sam Claflin), who provides a welcome break from dreary, lantern-jawed Peeta, even if he does spend half the games lugging his wizened old mentor around on his back like Luke Skywalker carrying Yoda. Technically the third point of the love triangle is Liam Hemsworth's Gale, but the poor guy barely gets a look in. Twilight this ain't...

Sure, I enjoyed Catching Fire, just as I enjoyed its predecessor, and the plot twist at the end leaves us with a classic Saturday matinee cliffhanger. But in between all the drawn out setting up scenes – the endless television appearances, the gluttonous banquets, the trademark fiery dress, the pseudo stormtroopers beating up the crowd – I couldn't help feeling a sense of déjà vu, and wishing this second film could do more to push the plot into new territory. In short, Catching Fire has left me hungry for more – Part I of the inevitable split final novel – but feeling anything but replete.

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