It’s scary to see how completely the juvenile-gladiator element (the only daring idea in the franchise) has been emasculated; the second half of Catching Fire is a rather generic, bloodless adventure with only a wisp of moral uneasiness. Friends don’t turn on each other (even Toy Story 3 offered more ambivalence), the deaths mostly take place offscreen, and they’re mostly people we don’t even know.
The sharp, navigable, frequently funny script is credited to Simon Beaufoy (assorted Danny Boyle movies, including Slumdog Millionaire) and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3, Brave). Neither of them was crazy enough to overthink this. Collins has done the strategizing and has espoused a worldview. They just have to realize it.
One of Catching Fire’s biggest problems is the dilution of the ingredients that made The Hunger Games so gripping… With Catching Fire picking up in the same place of its book equivalent, the initial drama is over, the concept a given, and the aftermath is all that’s left, an aftermath that as it turns out, involves melodramatic two-handed conversations galore.