Bring on Katniss and Jennifer Lawrence.  The second instalment of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, is out, and unlike every other war film known to man, this one doesn’t try to glamourise it.

Oh and bring the tissues.

Continuing on from the first film/novel, Catching Fire follows Katniss in the aftermath of her victory in The Hunger Games.  While she was essentially trying to save her own and Peeta’s lives, through her actions Katniss has became a symbol of hope and rebellion amongst the 12 Districts – all of which are brutally controlled by the Capitol.  The dictator, President Snow (Donald Sutherland), is unsurprisingly, not pleased.

After the rebellion continues and Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) continue to act madly in love, Snow realises that in order to stop the revolution from occurring he has to act drastically.  And so that is how Peeta and Katniss find themselves right back in the Hunger Games – alongside 22 other previous victors – all of whom want to see both Snow destroyed and the Capitol overturned.

First off, this film did something that other book franchises didn’t and that was use their budget to bank in on the big names.  Jennifer Lawrence – not only is she everyone’s new best friend, but she’s got an Oscar and she was nominated for one years before The Hunger Games.  Tick.  Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth as suitable man-candy?  Tick.  Heavy weights Phillip Seymour Hoffman (seriously guys – PHILLIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN) and Donald Sutherland.  And then, some tried and true actors who have been around for years: Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Jena Malone.  Tick tick tick.  So while other series have failed simply because they’ve picked nobodies who, let’s face it, can’t act (sorry Twilight), Catching Fire automatically was going to be better because it was a high-quality film, as well as a book adaptation.

Secondly, so many movies leave out crucial bits from the book, and while the overall storyline is still there, the heart and soul and little bits that matter have been lost.  Catching Fire, thank goodness, did not do this.  The stand out example was the development of Elizabeth Bank’s character, Effie. As a minor character, and a fluffy, inconsequential one at that, she could easily have been cut out, reduced to a few lines, or made into a comedic side act.  Instead, the writers used her character, a citizen of the Capitol after all, to really show the devastation and sadness that occurs when a war breaks out.

Thirdly, the best bit about The Hunger Games series is that they don’t sugar coat war.  Seriously, this movie was downright heartbreaking.  Is there anything sadder than seeing the family of a dead child who has been killed solely for entertainment?  Yes.  And that’s seeing a man show his genuine respect for two people who have tried to make a difference – only to be executed for his bravery.

Because here’s the thing.  War is horrific.  It is literally all the worst aspects of human nature in one go.  And while we all KNOW this, most of us are living in cushy Western middle-class worlds, where the idea of war is reduced to what we see on the news.  And while we know that there are dictators, that there is torture, that there is control, injury, pain and suffering to so many who are just innocent by-standers, we also forget.

And part of that is because when we watch big blockbuster films – like The Hunger Games are in a way – we forget how terrible war is.  Instead we are shown films that are patriotic, or are the success of a single hero, or a fighting team that ultimately wins.  And while that is a tried and tested model for a big film, The Hunger Games, and Suzanne Collins, has turned it on its head and shown us the reality.  That there is no ‘winner’.  That the hero, like Katniss, may not WANT to be a symbol of rebellion, or want to fight.  That war is, essentially, about survival.

And so that, for me, is what made Catching Fire such an excellent film.

Have you seen The Hunger Games: Catching Fire or read the books?  What do you think of Katniss?  Are you a fan of Jennifer Lawrence?  Let me know!