Cutting right to the chase, the cinematic adaptation of Catching Fire was superior in every way to the first film, and more than that, it told a better story than its source material did. So there’s quite a lot of good here.
See, the really quite spectacular Jennifer Lawrence has been given much better material this time around, and what looked in the book like a girl stumbling blindly into the role of hero of the rebellion looks here like a game of cat and mouse between Katniss Everdeen and President Snow. (In case I’m pretending you already know what’s going on in the sequel of an adaptation of a trilogy of books, I am. In case that bothers you: there’s this girl who not only won an annual deathmatch designed to keep the common folk down on bended knee before Snow’s Capitol, she beat the system and won for her boyfriend(?) as well, which nobody has ever done before. She made Snow look symbolically weak, and people have become inspired by her, and this entire movie is basically a reaction to that premise. Also, there’s another deathmatch, since those are annual like I said.)
Whereas in the book, I contemplated that Katniss’ transformation into a symbol of the rebellion was certainly implausible but possibly not meant to seem that way, it is played note perfect here. She’s only trying to be a good person, but everything she does exposes the hollowness behind Snow’s power, so it’s easy to see why people would be inspired by her, despite her own doubts, anger, and insecurities. And it still doesn’t hurt that you can’t see inside her head, as she is growing more likable along the film trajectory instead of less so along the one that played out in the novels.
I’m still not convinced that the mess of a third novel can be rescued, but if the same writing/directing team tackle that adaptation, I will find myself hopeful all the same.
 I have got to see Winter’s Bone. Probably also the movie last year she got the Oscar for?