If you read my review of the first movie you would know that I am not the biggest fan, I thought the Hunger Games was riddled with faults that detracted from the overall experience. I will say, Catching Fire takes what was good from the Hunger Games, improves it, and sets fire to the majority of the problems I had with the original. Starting off where the last one left off, Catching Fire ignites and sets a new standard for the young adult genre.
Catching Fire starts out in District 12 post-74th Hunger Games and it shows many of the after effects in Katniss' life, what I really like about this though is Catching Fire uses more of the expository time to expand on what makes the Capital so bad, and enriches the background with a darker, broodier tone. The film is much less forgiving in what is shows than the original, and it isn't scared to make a harsher reality, these actions help enhance the villain of the story and President Snow and the Capital all the more menacing, which they weren't at all in the original (In which i'd argue the Capital's presence was bear minimum and not all threatening like it is supposed to be).
The main problems I had with the original Hunger Games were the technical aspects, the costumes, effects, and most of all the shaky cam, and I am relieved to say Catching Fire has none of those problems. The camera never shakes, it doesn't blur, all of the action is clean and most importantly realistic. When you get into the Hunger Games portion of the movie these changes enhanced the scenes so much more and rose them miles above the original. The kills felt much more real and it made the stakes of the fight that much higher, and it made the games seem that much more threatening, and on an even better not you don't get a headache from the camera shaking either.
The Hunger Games also had one of its major problems in a lackluster ensemble, and very little genuine performances, Catching Fire is also a vast improvement on this. First, the chemistry between the actors is much more alive and no longer feels forced as it did in the first, and secondly all of the bad ensemble actors who couldn't say a line realistically to save their life are gone, the quality of the performances is much more alive and real, elevating the film that much higher than the first.
One of the biggest improvements Catching Fire made over the Hunger Games had to be the script, while the first had a (fairly) unique and creative premise, it failed to really capture any meaning or depth with it. Catching Fire's depth far surpasses the original, the subtle undertones of the Capital works, the back and forth banter between Hoffman (one of the best performances in the movie next to Lawrence) and Sutherland is menacing, and the tone/mood feels much less fantasy and much more dystopian sci-fi.
That said, the script of Catching Fire still has one major fault, and that is the continuation of the pathetic love triangle. I understand that it is a young adult book, but the entire movie treats the audience with such maturity throughout all the points that when some of these unbelievable scenes come up it throws you out of the loop because it isn't believable and makes you feel like you're watching a young teenage girl's wet dream. Now, the romance aspect wasn't as bad as the first one, but it was still bad, and it takes up to much of the movie not to be considered a major fault and it is what stops Catching Fire from blazing even higher.
While it is often stunted from its true potential from the dwelling on a fake love triangle, Catching Fire is a truly potent movie, with a much darker, and more realistic tone, while improving greatly on the strength of the Hunger Games and fixing most of the faults. Catching Fire delivers on thrills, twists, and serves as one of the more entertaining blockbusters of 2013.
8.5/10 Sticks of Bamboo for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire