This is Empire Strikes Back stuff. It has that second Star Wars movie's kick of confidence.
Director Francis Lawrence's film runs nearly two-and-a-half hours but it concludes so abruptly and tantalizingly, it leaves you wanting more.
The budget is nearly twice the original, and it shows. Great work from the A-list cast, amazing set designs and costumes.
Now the violence is not merely physical, but existential. Far from having won her freedom as promised, Katniss is now imprisoned in a false public narrative-supporter of the Capitol, lover of Peeta-from which she may never escape.
Catching Fire delivers on the grim, roiling promises of the original.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire takes the narrative and thematic liberties traditionally granted the middle chapter in a trilogy and drives the stakes up sharply.
The one truly fresh invention-and the one that matters most-is Katniss herself. With each on-screen chapter, the poor girl from District 12 continues to fulfill her destiny as an inspiration and a rebel fighter.
Given the strength of this installment, I'd say the box-office odds continue to be, in that Hunger Games catchphrase, "ever in its favor."
This second in the Hunger Games trilogy, directed by Francis Lawrence, has many of the virtues and somewhat fewer defects as its predecessor.