Don’t worry; the CGI is better in this one:

So here we have the sequel to the Hunger Games, and boy does it improve on the first one. Jennifer Lawrence steps back into the role of Katniss Everdeen and must deal with the aftermath of her actions in the previous movie. She suffers from PTSD after the events of the Games. It has changed her. Josh Hutcherson is also back as Peeta, who has also changed due to the Games, and his love for Katniss is now public, so our love triangle between him, Katniss, and Gale is in full swing.

After a visit from President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland, we know that things are not looking good for Katniss and the country of Panem. Katniss’ actions have created a stir among the Districts, and this means that Katniss has to prove that her actions were out of her love for Peeta and not a fight against the Capitol. On top of that, Katniss and Peeta have to compete in the Games yet again, due to it being the Quarter Quell.

Catching Fire brings out a new director, Francis Lawrence, who had previous done I Am Legend and Water for Elephants, and he will also be directing the two-part Mockingjay movie. He certainly handles himself adequately, straying away from the up-close shaky cam action scenes and packs most of the book into this two and a half hour movie, which at times feels a bit long, but there’s not much you can do when you’re trying to cram all of the major plot points into just one movie.

Though the film follows the book pretty faithfully, there are a couple scenes that were missing. One of the most notable omissions from the movie was a scene early on where Katniss meets two rebels in the woods as they’re heading towards District 13, which offers a sort of foreshadowing for the remainder of the trilogy, but interestingly enough it was left out. Another scene that I found particularly interesting was Katniss and Peeta seeing the Games footage of Haymitch when he won 25 years prior. Though, for an already cramped movie, the latter seems more easily left out than the former.

Catching Fire features a new stand out character played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who did a very good job as the new Gameskeeper, and his presence is a warm welcome thanks to his great acting. Another new addition is Jena Malone as Johanna Mason, the tribute from 7 who is both overly sexual and vicious at the same time.

Also notable are Sam Claflin as Finnick and Jeffrey Wright as Beetee. The returning cast is also great as well. Woody Harrelson stands as the comedic relief and he definitely draws out the chuckles, and the same can be said about Stanley Tucci who reprises his role as Caesar, the host of the Hunger Games. It is an admirable sequel that actually fairs better than the first one, which suffered from poor CGI and that oh-so-obnoxious shaky cam.

It will be interesting to see how the third book fairs as two movies, just like Twilight and Harry Potter have done. If you are a fan of the books or even just the first movie, this one is a must see.