This film is best seen after the first film in the series, titled The Hunger Games.
Katniss and Peeta have won the 74th hunger games together and can now reside in peace with their winnings. But they are far from safe; as they journey through the districts on their victory tour, they see the sparks of the rebellion they have started. President Snow wants these sparks to be put out immediately and threatens Katniss to do everything in her power to make the people stop rioting. When Katniss fails, Snow takes matters into his own hands. The 75th year of the Hunger Games is a quarter quell; a very special type of games hosted every 25 years where the usual rules are changed a bit. This year, Snow's message is made very clear when the finalists are chosen from the existing victors; forcing Katniss into the games. Prepare yourselves; this film is scorching (apologies for the terrible wordplay).
Not only is this an excellent set up for the final two films (I feel they should be one film to avoid this ridiculous milking of stories that all the film makers seem to be doing now, but more about that another time) but it is also a stunning story. Some people I have talked to took one look at the trailer and thought that the film was just going to be a rehash of the first, but, having read the books, I knew better. As in the first film, the story does take a little bit of getting into. Much of the film takes place in the districts, and it builds up this massive sense of rebellion and defiance. It is stunning storytelling and I often found myself smiling in victory or tearing up in misery; it is very emotional. There is one hugely shocking scene fairly near the beginning that really took by breath away, but I wouldn't want to ruin it for you; you'll know it when you see it.
As for the characters, I couldn't wait to see what they had done with a few of them, and they seriously didn't disappoint. Finnick (Sam Clafin) is cast absolutely perfectly cast (and really very good-looking) and I loved how they portrayed Mags, Nuts and Volts. A nice surprise was the casting of Jena Malone as Johanna, whom she played with real guts. You may remember her as Lydia in Pride and Prejudice or Rocket in Suckerpunch, and I thought this role is perfect as a springboard for her to get into bigger and better roles. I loved how the film doesn't shy away from the love triangle, and I'm glad I dislike Katniss almost as much as I did during the books; my heart bleeds for Peeta, and since I know exactly what will happen in the next two films, it also bleeds in anticipation.
Everyone was rather on par in terms of their acting skills; there was no-one who stood out for the wrong reasons, but no-one stole any scenes entirely. However, Jennifer Lawrence impressed me in that very shocking scene I told you about earlier. Josh Hutcherson has always played Peeta beautifully, and he doesn't let the character down in this film either. Elizabeth Banks (as Effie Trinket) was very good for the few minutes that we saw of her. I thought it was nice how this element of her character was brought into play and Banks showed her outer shell cracking rather nicely.
Fans of the books will love this adaptation; it is so true to them and has included little bits and pieces which have made me truly happy to watch, filmgoers will revel in the level of pure emotion and adrenaline and eveyrone else will be very impressed. One word of warning though; the book stops of a cliffhanger and so does this film. You will be itching for an entire year to watch Mockingjay- Part 1, that is, unless you read the books!
9.5 out of 10 - the only downside being that the build up was slightly too long.