Facing the repercussions of her actions from the previous Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is met by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) before she and her partner Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) set off on the victory tour. Snow fears Katniss' actions may end up causing a revolution and makes sure that Katniss does not make the same mistake while keeping the revolution down. To make matters worse, Katniss and Peeta are thrown back into the next Hunger Games for a special event known as the Quarter Quell that allows winners to return to the games every 25 years. Now Katniss has to survive, protect Peeta and decide whether to restore peace or defy President Snow.
While I initially was wondering whether I thought this was better than the original or not, I came to the conclusion that, while it is superior to the original, it is not enough to shift it to a higher score...confusing I know. All the elements that made me enjoy the first one are still present however there are certain elements that are reduced while others are increased. The first 10 minutes has terrible pacing which made me realise that not enough time is spent with Katniss and Peeta enjoying their victory...if they would (they probably wouldn't any way) and certain side characters that I enjoyed in the first are down-played (Toby Jones has one scene!).
However, Donald Sutherland is given more screen time and owns every scene he is in along with the addition of Philip Seymour-Hoffman, who is always great to watch. Jennifer Lawrence also gives a much more emotional performance even though Josh Hutcherson is downplayed much more than in the original. It's also good to see more traps featured in the actual hunger games with new tributes to enjoy (much more likable that in the first one). It is definetly smarter than the first film however, outside of the games themselves, it does feel different to the first which is preferable in my opinion.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire subtracts a few things that I enjoyed from the first but makes up for these lost elements with new and/or expanded material. Yes, it is better than the first but not by enough to warrant a higher score. So while it may appear the same, it isn't. It is better...just not by much. The characters that aren't shafted to the side are more developed with stronger acting and new actors do offer great new material the franchise and has an ending that left me wanting the next films. It's definetly more engaging than the first but I doubt it'll sway anyone's opinion. Just more for the fans.
An enjoyable flick from start to finish that makes me remember why I enjoyed the first film