The second installment of the book series from Suzanne Collins follows Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) as she returns to fight in the games which made her a hero across her home world of Panem.
Before you see the film, here's what critics are saying about the "Hunger Games" sequel.
Everyone can't stop praising Jennifer Lawrence's performance:
"None of it would work—not the action, the adventure, the political subtext or the humor—without the strength and beauty that Ms. Lawrence brings to the central role. Whenever she's on screen, the camera studies the contours of her face with a gaze that might be fawning in other circumstances, but seems properly attentive here. The lovely simplicity of her technique might have gratified James Cagney, whose reputed advice to actors was 'Learn your lines, find your mark, look 'em in the eye and tell 'em the truth.'"
"Lawrence has clearly taken this role very much to heart, throwing herself into it to such an extent that she creates genuine emotion from what is essentially pulpy material."
"Spinning in that wedding dress, or glaring in wary repose, Lawrence catches fire on screen."
The Hollywood Reporter (THR):
"Lawrence further solidifies her tenacious grip on this signature role as she explores Katniss' tortured inner self."
Stanley Tucci is perfect once again as the overly energetic host of the games.
"Stanley Tucci returns as Caesar Flickerman, and again brilliantly parodies beauty-pageant and talent-show hosts."
"Stanley Tucci is funnier than ever as the game-show host Caesar Flickerman, teeth and eyes gleaming madly from a skinscape of bottled tan."
Entertainment Weekly (EW) simply refers to Tucci as the "Ryan Seacrest of Oz."
Practically every review we've seen makes comment that new director Francis Lawrence has done a much better job with the sequel than Gary Ross did with the original.
"Francis Lawrence ("I Am Legend") has taken over directing from Gary Ross, whose poor handling of the first film didn't stop it from becoming a sensation. Lawrence has given the film (the budget was nearly doubled) a more settled environment heavy on greys and a more appropriately grave emotional atmosphere."
Don't expect a lot of blood and gore. The thrill to kill in the games has been tuned down a notch. Vulture:
"It’s likely that the violence has so little sting because of the studio’s need for a PG-13 rating, which has the paradoxical effect of making murder less upsetting and therefore more family friendly. (Bring the kids, why don’t you?)"
Fans of the book will be pleased the film stays true to the story ...
"The script by Simon Beaufoy and Michael deBruyn reflects the shape, emphasis and incident of the book with almost scientific precision, and the desire to deliver the expected goods is keenly felt."
... but ultimately it leaves something to be desired.
"Like Super Bowl Sunday, when more TV time is wasted on pre-game folderol than is spent on actual football, Catching Fire moseys through half of its 2-hour-and-26-minute running time, setting up Katniss’s rivalries, and dropping hints of things to come, before the Quell Games begin."
"There's a ritualistic quality to these films that's key to their appeal, but it also limits their capacity to truly wow us … Catching Fire is smoothly exciting but a bit of a tease. It gets mileage out of setting up the Quarter Quell as some ultimate Fear Factor version of Deliverance, yet there isn't a moment of real dread in it."
Overall Consensus: See it!
If you don't have your tickets by now — and you're seeing it on your own or with kids — you should probably plan on buying them. This could very well be the BIGGEST movie of the year. Fandango told us Thursday ticket sales for the film were outpacing "Iron Man 3"— which is not only the highest-grossing movie so far of the year, but also the film with the highest-opening weekend of 2013 ($174 million).
Not only is Jennifer Lawrence flawless in her return as the arrow-slinging Katniss, but the added talent of Philip Seymour Hoffman and newcomer scene-stealer Jena Malone should be more than enough reasons to head out.
Fans agree that the second book in the "Hunger Games" series is the best of Collins' trilogy — and we've been told that the film stays very true to the book.
Check out a trailer for the film below: