The original Hunger Games left with an unashamed set up for a sequel. As a triumphant Katniss raises hands with her co winner Peeta under the brooding glare of second love interest Gale, the tone is already set for plenty more hormone pumped happenings.
The concept of Hunger Games is certainly an interesting one; young people set against each other in a very real fight to the death within a controlled and televised environment. With this concept dealt with in the first book Suzanne Collins shifts focus back onto the districts for the sequel, where there are murmurs of an uprising after Katniss’s controversial victory.
It’s a lengthy book which is faithfully preserved in Francis Lawrence’s adaptation save for a few cut corners (with a 146 minute running time this is fortunate.) New characters have been thoughtfully cast; Phillip Seymour Hoffman is the hard to read Capital official Plutarch Heavensbee and Sam Claflin and Jen Malone join as previous victors, all suitably playing their parts in Katniss’s story. Existing characters are also attentively treated. Elizabeth Banks’ Effie Trinket lights up her scenes, as does Stanley Tucci’s Ceasar Flickerman, although this is mostly from his bleached dentures. Josh Hutcherson has grown sternly into his part, and it’s a shame that with most of the limelight put on Lawrence more depth isn’t granted to his character.
As with its predecessor, it’s Jennifer Lawrence’s performance that carries the film. A tightly wound and now traumatised girl with threats coming from high places, Lawrence makes her Katniss highly believable, whether she’s completely distraught or immovably defiant. This is a protagonist that you get behind.
With a larger story to pack into the film this time there are some aspects that become overshadowed. Peeta and Katniss’s ever changing relationship for example is given short, sometimes rushed scenes that lack the intensity of those experienced with Gale. Francis Lawrence instead pulls the focus onto the politics, with President Snow’s gently aggressive attack on the districts leading the story, and setting up the sub narratives that will blossom in the final two films.
Otherwise this is a loyal adaptation which paired with admirable performances will keep fans thoroughly satisfied.