This week on At The Movies, Peter Travers tackles one of the most anticipated films of the year – one that many are predicting will bring in a staggering $180 million at the box office this weekend: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Following up on last year's solid original – though Travers still believes it could've used an R-rating to better capture the brutality of Suzanne Collins' book – and with the third installment, Mockingjay, already in the works, there are plenty of speed bumps this middle child could've hit. "I didn't expect this one to work, Travers admits. "But lo and behold, it does."
For starters, Catching Fire finds a new director, Francis Lawrence, behind the camera, replacing The Hunger Games' Gary Ross (who was a little too into those handheld cameras). Lawrence brings an energy to Catching Fire, Travers says, and unlike the Twilight series, it's packed with action and suspense. Not to mention an all-star cast, led by Academy Award-winner Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, who's forced to compete in the titular competition again. Joining Lawrence is fellow Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, plus Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson. "It has really good actors being really good," Travers says. "In other words, they don't look like they're getting a paycheck – they look like they're interested in this."
But what sets Catching Fire apart is how it's rooted in reality. The competitors don't have super powers – they're just teenagers placed in an extraordinary position. "When you see Catching Fire, you're gonna be presently surprised," Travers says. "You're gonna say, 'It's just as good as the first one, maybe even better. . .' This one works – so if it makes all the money, you're not gonna hear any complaints from me."