"Catching Fire" made $158 million on its first weekend - and 71 Loyalsock High School students know why.
These juniors caught a field-trip show the morning it opened; as the teacher who currently oversees their writing, I asked if they'd help with my review.
But first, a little background:
Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence (front, center), becomes a symbol for the rebellion against the Capitol when she enters the arena for the second time in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”
Adapted from the second book in Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games" trilogy, "Catching Fire" depicts a future society in which a cruel and shallow central city ("the Capitol") lords it over 12 outlying districts.
This despotic reign is reinforced by annual "games" in which 24 kids - a male and female from each district - fight to the death, all the while watched by millions on TV.
Having survived her first bout, Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of "Catching Fire," unwittingly becomes the figurehead for a rebellion and is forced back into the arena a second time.
Several kids agreed with Emily Kuntz, who "thought the movie did a great job following the book. It made the mental pictures come to life."
"The scenes they decided to cut from the book were sensible," said Marcus Stopper, and Jarred Booth called it "closer to the book than any other book-based film I have ever seen. The only disappointing part about the movie is that I have to wait months to buy my own copy."
"The movie did a really good job of portraying things exactly how you pictured them in your head while reading the book," wrote Luke Glavin, others also praised the visual scheme:
"The arena is so lifelike that it feels as if you could actually travel there yourself and experience the horror." - Ya'heia Brown
"What surprised me the most is how realistic it looked." - Brandon Mull
"It was just the way I imagined it in my head while I was reading." - Sydney Leinbach
The film's colors and effects make it seem like a dream. Katniss's mocking jay costume was iconic." - Blake Koontz
"The attention to detail that the director had was fantastic." - Jenny Heilmann
Indeed, as James Jenks commented regarding the movie's sets, "The Capitol and training area had a futuristic theme, while the districts still had a 1950s feel."
Tommy Criswell pointed out that "all the characters that were working together wore gold," to match Katniss's mockingjay pin.
Most also agreed with Brittany Taylor, who insisted that this second film was "way better than the first one."
"Some sequels fail to live up to the high expectations of the first; 'Catching Fire' was not one of those sequels," wrote Nikhil Sajja.
"Honestly there was never a dull moment and it really kept you on your toes," said Missy Hill - and many concurred that, as Betty Yeung put it, "the movie was absolutely fantastic, from the very beginning to the end."
"Even though it is a fairly long movie, the suspenseful music and effects keep you on the edge of your seat through the entire film." - Lauren Raemore
"It kept you thinking and wondering and hoping. But most of all it kept me wanting to see the next movie sooner." - Erika Maurer
They liked the acting too:
"Sam Claflin portrays Finnick perfectly," wrote Jade Zheng; Courtney Brown said, "Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson brought a whole new level of emotional attachment to this film;' and Taylor Lang was impressed by Katniss's character, who "shows bravery, care, love and protection."
Several also felt the film had broad appeal:
Kyle Datres observed that "it had the action the males tend to like and the romance that females usually enjoy;" Reyna Feay said, "The comprehension level is easy for all ages," and Emily Schlee wrote that "all age groups can find something to like about 'Catching Fire.' "
"The whole plot and set-up of the movie was fantastic," said Chase Dunkleberger.
"Definitely one of my favorite movies." - Ben Sosa.
"You will not be disappointed." - Ally Anderson.
"By far the best movie I saw this year." - Matt Hibbs.
"A great movie for people of all ages and genders, and I suggest everyone see it." - Lindsay Brown.
Amen to that.