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November 21, 2013 6:00 pm
In the second tranche of The Hunger Games saga, Catching Fire, futuristic peasant hero and plait-haired young warrior Katniss Everdeen must continue to save her skin with bows and arrows, and this time lead a global revolution too, with the help of no less than Philip Seymour Hoffman, who shambles into the movie with his pendulous belly 20 minutes in and raises its IQ by about 1,000.
The Hunger Games is truly the most cynically machine-tooled, ultimate fantasy yet penned and screened. Everything about it is aimed directly at the increasingly specific, impossibly complicated and multi-detailed wish-fulfilment centre of the modern teenage girl. The heroine, Katniss, basically wins a kind of murderous X Factor. This turns her into a top celebrity who gets a makeover and whole new fabulous wardrobe and becomes the most famous and sexually desired person of all time (crucially, without losing her integrity for a moment) and goes about in a pre-lapsarian-meets-post-industrial world acting superior to all grown-ups and being a justified murderer. And there was me, aged 14, just wanting to be Jane Eyre and to marry someone hot with a nice house.
The intensity, the relentlessness of Katniss’s peril! All of which is upgraded this time around – the fight-to-the-death Games themselves, where Katniss must succeed while being watched by the entire universe, are even more monstrous, more villainous. Even Frodo had time for the occasional fry-up, but there’s not a moment to spare for the (excellent, as ever) star Jennifer Lawrence with her grave, adorable face. Nobody involved seems remotely aware of the utter pomposity of the project – a third endless film is now in production. Teenage girls, who will see this in droves, will be completely enraptured. Others might be amused and intrigued but secretly long instead for those cheap, fast, satirical movies about horrifically corporate-controlled futures and violent sports such as Rollerball, Battle Royale and Death Race 2000.
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