If reviews are any indication, the "Hunger Games" film franchise need not fear the sophomore slump. Building on the success of the 2012 film, the sequel
The Times' Kenneth Turan calls "Catching Fire" "an effective piece of melodramatic popular entertainment that savvily builds on the foundation established by the first "Hunger Games" movie." With regard to Francis Lawrence, Turan writes, "the expansion in size and scope this project's larger budget allows proves well within his power."
That said, the film is anchored by its star: "Lawrence's intertwined strength and vulnerability as Katniss were the sine qua non of the first film, and she is the sequel's biggest asset as well. Now an Oscar winner for
Once again, it all comes back to Jennifer Lawrence: "none of it would work — not the action, the adventure, the political subtext or the humor — without the strength and beauty that Ms. Lawrence brings to the central role. … It's hard to believe how far this young star has come in the three years since her breakout role in
Ann Hornaday of the
And the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle writes that the film "doesn't settle for halfhearted gestures." He continues: "Jennifer Lawrence does not act like someone in an action movie but like someone in a life-and-death drama that happens to have lots of running and jumping. Director Francis Lawrence makes sure that not a single performance is tossed off. Every effort is made to portray this awful future world as something real and to have the actors react with the right sense of terror and entrapment."
Those elements "take the movie far," LaSalle says, but the problem is that the film "is based on the middle book in a trilogy, and that means that it doesn't really end. Instead it stops just as it's getting interesting."