“Catching Fire” has a lot of major improvements over the first Hunger Games film. Like many sagas, having the foundation of the first film was a huge boost without the need for introductions. The development could mostly focus on the further complicating dynamics between the characters, especially Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), Gale (Liam Hemsworth), and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and move deeper into accelerating story conflicts.

Each actor/actress has fine tuned and top-notch performance in “Catching Fire”, with several new strong additions to the existing cast. Jennifer Lawrence in particular has really come to as an actress. And that’s clearly visible in this film more so than the first. From basically being unknown a few years ago,  her diverse film load over the past couple years  including the Hunger Games saga has made her one of the most recognizable actresses of her generation.

For being 2.5 hours, “Catching Fire” is surprisingly well paced with few, if any slow points. And with so much material to cover from a book, it’s a major credit to director Francis Lawrence to have put it all together without things feeling rushed or sloppy. I’ve been told that this film follows the book very closely, which provides enough depth to please those unfamiliar to the franchise as well as devoted fans.

The worldwide success of the first Hunger Games is evident in the impressive set and effects, which seemingly had its budget tripled, providing a strong visual compliment to a great story.

There’s plenty of tension and several twists, and even predictable outcomes are received with intensity. A film this long with so few faults in the genre of book-to-movie is rare, and it sets the bar for similar grandeur and epic scale in the coming Hunger Games films.

8.9/10