Nobody is surprised that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a huge hit. The studio behind the film, Lionsgate, reported that the movie grossed over $135 million on its opening day alone, chalking up $161 million for its first weekend.

The movie is “certified fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes with an 89 percent approval rating among critics. Some suspect that the trilogy’s odds will ever be in its favor.

Based on the second book of the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire takes place right after the franchise’s first installment. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, winners of the 74th annual Hunger Games, are paraded around the 13 districts of Panem to show their condolences to each of the district’s losers. 

If you are familiar with the story, you know that there is supposed to only be one winner (or one survivor) for each of the games. Due to a technicality on the part of Katniss, there was a tie.

This, however, did not sit well with President Snow, who plans a one-on-one meeting with Katniss during her tour, where he threatens her and her family if there are more acts of defiance on her part.

Soon, announcements are given for the 75th Games, and the announcement surprises everyone that the new Games’ contestants will be drawn from previous winners. This means that Katniss and Peeta will be thrown into the ring again.

Catching Fire is both darker and deeper than the first film. Katniss appears not only horrified by having to participate in the Games again, but is almost physically ill. She and Peeta also learn that they will always be used as pawns for the government. 

Making the Games more of a game show is meant to hide the atrocities for those outside of the Capitol, but it doesn’t seem to work. Those in the Capitol, though, are quite amused about the whole thing.

Due to the dark nature of the film, there are depressing moments to be sure, but odd characters like Effie, the Games’ public relations expert, and Caesar Flickerman, the reality show host, keep the movie enjoyable. 

Some critics have pointed out that the Hunger Games stories have Christian themes, including laying down one’s life for another. The stories also are symbolic of Hitler’s leadership in Germany, George Orwell’s 1984 and the abundance of reality TV shows we partake in every year. 

If you haven’t read the books or seen the first movie, you’ll need to do some brushing up before seeing Catching Fire.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire stars all of the original cast members reprising their roles, including Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Liam Hemsworth (Paranoia), Woody Harrelson (Now You See Me), Josh Hutcherson (Journey to the Center of the Earth), Donald Sutherland (TV’s Crossing Lines), Elizabeth Banks (People Like Us), Stanley Tucci (Captain America), Lenny Kravitz (The Butler) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Moneyball).

This film is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some frightening images, thematic elements, a suggestive situation and language.

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