- (Photo: Lionsgate)
The follow-up to last year's blockbuster, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" introduces fans to a deeper look at their favorite heroine Katniss Everdeen during an emotional roller-coaster of a film.
Much like its predecessor as well as the trilogy written by Suzanne Collins, the film draws on themes of trust, loyalty, deception, and love in the post-apocalyptic world of Panem and its 12 districts.
The story follows Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) who has returned home safely to District 12 after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games alongside fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson).
However, the 75th Annual Hunger Games, called The Quarter Quell, arrives with new rules dictated by the malevolent President Snow.
"This is the 75th year of the Hunger Games," explained the president, who is portrayed by Donald Sutherland in the film. "The tributes are to be reaped from the existing pool of victors."
Forced to return into the fight to the death that is the Hunger Games, Everdeen and Mellark reunite with characters such as Haymitch Abernathy, Effie Trinkett and Cinna, played by Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Lenny Kravitz, respectively.
"Catching Fire" also added new characters including four-time Oscar nominee Philip Seymour Hoffman who portrays gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee, and Finnick Odair, a tribute from District 4 portrayed by Sam Claflin.
Complete with extra plot twists, riskier deceptions and a more confident heroine in Katniss, "Catching Fire" felt more like a graduated version of its preceding film.
A red carpet darling and a fan favorite, Jennifer Lawrence is also an Oscar Award winner who has earned every ounce of her success- in no small part due to her excellent portrayal of the "Hunger Games" lead character.
Furthermore, Lawrence accomplishes the difficult task of conveying Katniss' inner turmoil between the self-serving urge to protect her family or the much larger purpose of leading people in need to a revolution.
"I don't want people looking to me, I can't help them," Katniss vehemently claims during the film.
The protagonist is also struggling in a love triangle between her childhood friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta Mellark. Once in sync while hunting together in the woods, Gale no longer understands Katniss as the Hunger Games have changed everything for them.
While "Catching Fire" tugs on the heartstrings, it also includes shockingly violent scenes.
For instance, as momentum builds with revolutionaries within Panem, soldiers ironically called "peacekeepers" resort to public displays of punishment by death, including one elderly man in District 9. Although the doors were closing on the gruesome seen of him being shot in the head, blood was seen spraying before they shut completely.
Standout performances in "Catching Fire" went to Elizabeth Banks who plays Katniss' escort Effie Trinket, and to Jena Malone who played the uninhibited fellow tribute Johanna Mason.
"Hunger Games Catching Fire" is rated PG-13 and runs for 146 minutes. The film hits theaters everywhere on Nov. 22. Watch the trailer here.