The events of this enthralling movie, which is based on the book of the same name, follow directly after what happened in the first movie, The Hunger Games. Inspired by the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, it continues the story of a country named Bread (seriously, Panem is the Latin word for bread) and the world’s most unfortunate lottery.

Not a lot can be said about the plot without giving away too many spoilers. Let’s summarize this way: By not dying in the first movie, Katniss and Peeta accidentally started a rebellion against the government. They are forced into an even more cruel version of the Hunger Games, while outside the arena, everyone is playing the same game ­— with higher stakes. There are moves and countermoves, and nobody is quite sure what anybody else is doing
or why.

The script follows the book pretty closely and gets all the major plot points right, even though this
makes the movie more than two hours long (don’t worry — the last book in the trilogy is being turned into two movies). I was especially happy that they didn’t soften Katniss up and turn the film into an actual romance and that they didn’t shy away from showing some of the violent scenes (like the first movie did).

This installment of the story, unlike the first one, was directed by Francis Lawrence. He usually directs music videos, but his earlier films include the Keanu Reeves vampire flick Constantine, and the Will Smith zombie flick I Am Legend. Oh, and he got an award for making Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video.

Lawrence, the director, does a great job with this movie — I’m glad he’s already been hired to direct the next two installments. In addition, the acting is great, the script is tight, and the action mixes with politics in the right amounts. Besides these big issues, however, one of the main strengths of the film is the way it gets the little details just right — the country of Panem and its cultures seem real. Through dialogue and scenery, you get little glimpses of traditions and events that are unfolding off-screen, in other times. You are woven into the fabric of the tale, instead of watching a flat story. It’s hard to explain this, but it’s one way I can identify a high-quality movie — and this movie has it.

Another sign of a good movie is how everybody can relate to it. On one hand, Democrats have been claiming that the movie is pretty obviously a criticism of our country’s widening economic gap and how social justice doesn’t usually come from the privileged class. On the other hand, Republicans and Tea Partiers claim the movie is obviously about how Obama sucks and how his government is corrupt and ready to be taken down.

I was a fan of The Hunger Games when it was released, and I was nervous that this movie would be ruined somehow. It turns out
that Catching Fire is one of those rare sequels that is better than the first movie.

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