It’s kind of remarkable how entertaining “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” turns out to be, especially once you take into account just how many scenes are basically repeated from the first film.

If we want to compare the three “The Hunger Games” books (or the eventual four “The Hunger Games” movies) to the original "Star Wars" trilogy, having Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) compete in another Hunger Games tournament so soon after the first one would be like “The Empire Strikes Back” featuring another attack on another Death Star. (As we know, that attack on another Death Star eventually happened in “Return of the Jedi,” but George Lucas was smart enough to to wait six years; even with that gap, though, history has decreed “Jedi” inferior to both “The Empire Strikes Back” and the original “Star Wars.”) Yet, the second feature installment of “The Hunger Games” is better than the first movie.

To be fair, there’s one other issue regarding my enjoyment of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”: I had not read the book.

Now, I had read the first “Hunger Games” book before seeing the first movie, and I do wonder what kind of effect that had on my personal enjoyment of the movie. I liked "The Hunger Games" as a film, but reading the book first created a completely different viewing experience. Instead of thinking I wonder what happens next, the mindset became Please don’t mess this up. The problem is that the book is always going to be better than the movie, because your imagination has a much bigger budget than a movie studio, and it can get every last detail just right. (It took me years to appreciate the theatrical version of “The Firm” -- which was directed by the great Sydney Pollack, I should add -- for this very reason, because the version in my mind was much better.)

I asked the director of “Catching Fire,” Francis Lawrence, about this very aspect, and he admitted that it's a challenge. “Somebody who has read the book will not experience the movie in the same way,” he said. (The full interview will publish the week of release.)

My point is, having not read the book, I was genuinely surprised by the twists and turns in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (as opposed to the first movie, which is for the most part -- despite the horrors of kids killing other kids -- fairly predictable).

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” picks up not long after the events of the first movie. Katniss is back at home, trying to live a normal life -- at least as normal as can be after winning a to-the-death-royal-rumble tournament. There in District 12, she rekindles her relationship with Gale (Liam Hemsworth, playing a character that still isn’t that important in this second chapter), while also having to force-feed the general public with her unadulterated love for co-Hunger Games champion, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).

After some unfortunate occurrences on an awkward and manufactured Katniss-Peeta victory tour, the new games are announced -- and this time it's an all-star version of the event that will only feature former winners of the Hunger Games. Of course. Katniss and Peeta find themselves back in the tournament they had just won a year earlier.

This is where the problems for the movie start. Because once again, we have another training montage. Once again, we watch the contestants get introduced on chariots and, yes, again burning wardrobes are involved. (The effects in this part are noticeably better than in the first film.) Once again, each contestant must appear on Caesar Flickerman’s (Stanley Tucci) televised pre-games variety show. (Honestly, Tucci should be handed some sort of lifetime achievement award for hamming up a role to the point of intentional hilarity.) Even with a few changes here and there, it’s all very repetitive.

But once we get into the actual Games, everything changes. These aren’t kids fighting kids any longer (one contestant is elderly), and we actually get to know at least a few of Katniss’ opponents to where we start to like them. This is very different than what we experienced in the first “Hunger Games," and the end result of the Games is nothing like what happens in the first movie. There’s an emotional weight to these Games that wasn’t present in the first film, because we actually care about more characters than just Katniss. (To be fair, we did care about Rue in the first film, but only because Katniss cared about Rue. Rue was not a talker and we didn’t know much about her other than that she was young and innocent –- but a lot of people in the first movie were young and innocent.)

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” has a somewhat long running time, but it doesn’t matter. I hate worrying about the length of a movie -– any film should be however long it needs to be to effectively tell its story -– but, yes, there’s nothing worse than a bloated film that has me thinking, Boy, how long is this? When “Catching Fire” ended –- by that point, the repetitive aspects of the film were long since forgotten -- I wanted more. And that’s one of the best attributes that a movie can have.

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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  • Actresses Elizabeth Banks, right, and Jennifer Lawrence, both from the US, pose for photographers as they arrive at the German premiere of their movie "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

  • Actresses Elizabeth Banks, right, and Jennifer Lawrence, both from the US, pose for photographers as they arrive at the German premiere of their movie "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

  • Australian actor Liam Hemsworth, left, and the US actors Elizabeth Banks, second left, Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, right, pose for photographers as they arrive at the German premiere of their movie "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

  • Actress Elizabeth Banks, right, and actress Jennifer Lawrence, left, both from the US, pose for the photographers as they arrive for the Germany premiere of the movie "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

  • US actress Elizabeth Banks poses for the photographers as she arrives for the German premiere of the movie "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    American actress Jennifer Lawrence poses for photographers as she arrives on the red carpet for the World Premiere of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," on Monday Nov. 11, 2013, in Leicester Square, London. Lawrence will not only star in the upcoming film adaptation of Jeanette Walls’ 2005 best-selling memoir “The Glass Castle,” the project will also mark her first time as a producer. A production date for the movie has not yet been set. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    American actress Jennifer Lawrence poses for photographers as she arrives on the red carpet for the World Premiere of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," on Monday Nov. 11, 2013, in Leicester Square, London. Lawrence will not only star in the upcoming film adaptation of Jeanette Walls’ 2005 best-selling memoir “The Glass Castle,” the project will also mark her first time as a producer. A production date for the movie has not yet been set. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

  • Sam Claflin and Laura Haddock

    Sam Claflin and wife Laura Haddock attend the 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Premiere After-Party, on Monday Nov. 11, 2013 in the Royal Court of Justice, London. 'Catching Fire' is the second instalment in 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

  • Willow Shield, Liam Hemsworth, Jena Malone, Jennifer Lawrence, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Jeffrey Wright and Donald Sutherland

    From left to right, Willow Shield, Liam Hemsworth, Jena Malone, Jennifer Lawrence, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Jeffrey Wright and Donald Sutherland pose for photographers at the World Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', on Monday Nov. 11, 2013 in Leicester Square, London. 'Catching Fire' is the second instalment in 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

  • Elizabeth Banks

    U.S actress Elizabeth Banks arrives on the red carpet for the World Premiere of Hunger Games: Catching Fire, at a central London cinema, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    U.S actress Jennifer Lawrence arrives on the red carpet for the World Premiere of Hunger Games: Catching Fire, at a central London cinema, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    U.S actress Jennifer Lawrence arrives on the red carpet for the World Premiere of Hunger Games: Catching Fire, at a central London cinema, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

  • Sam Claflin, Laura Haddock

    British actor Sam Claflin picks up wife and actress Laura Haddock as they arrive on the red carpet for the World Premiere of Hunger Games: Catching Fire, at a central London cinema, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    U.S actress Jennifer Lawrence arrives on the red carpet for the World Premiere of Hunger Games: Catching Fire, at a central London cinema, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

  • Liam Hemsworth

    Australian actor Liam Hemsworth arrives on the red carpet for the World Premiere of Hunger Games: Catching Fire, at a central London cinema, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    U.S actress Jennifer Lawrence arrives on the red carpet for the World Premiere of Hunger Games: Catching Fire, at a central London cinema, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

  • Elizabeth Banks

    U.S actress Elizabeth Banks arrives on the red carpet for the World Premiere of Hunger Games: Catching Fire, at a central London cinema, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

  • Stanley Tucci, Jon Kilik, Nina Jacobson, Willow Shield, Liam Hemsworth, Jena Malone, Jennifer Lawrence, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Jeffrey Wright, Donald Sutherland and director Francis Lawrence

    From left to right, actor Stanley Tucci, producers Jon Kilik and Nina Jacobson, and other cast members Willow Shield, Liam Hemsworth, Jena Malone, Jennifer Lawrence, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Jeffrey Wright, Donald Sutherland and director Francis Lawrence pose for photographers at the World Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', on Monday Nov. 11, 2013, in Leicester Square, London. 'Catching Fire' is the second installment in 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

  • Jena Malone, Willow Shield, Jennifer Lawrence, Nina Jacobson and Elizabeth Banks

    From left to right, actresses Jena Malone, Willow Shield, Jennifer Lawrence, producer Nina Jacobson and actress Elizabeth Banks pose for photographers at the World Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', on Monday Nov. 11, 2013, in Leicester Square, London. 'Catching Fire' is the second installment in 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

  • Stanley Tucci, Jon Kilik, Nina Jacobson, Willow Shield, Liam Hemsworth, Jena Malone, Jennifer Lawrence, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Jeffrey Wright, Donald Sutherland and director Francis Lawrence

    From left to right, actor Stanley Tucci, producers Jon Kilik and Nina Jacobson, and other cast members Willow Shield, Liam Hemsworth, Jena Malone, Jennifer Lawrence, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Jeffrey Wright, Donald Sutherland and director Francis Lawrence pose for photographers at the World Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', on Monday Nov. 11, 2013, in Leicester Square, London. 'Catching Fire' is the second installment in 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

  • Liam Hemsworth, Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson

    Actors Liam Hemsworth, left, Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson pose for photographers at the World Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', on Monday Nov. 11, 2013, in Leicester Square, London. 'Catching Fire' is the second installment in 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

  • Liam Hemsworth, Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson

    Actors Liam Hemsworth, left, Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson share a joke on the red carpet as they arrive for the World Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', on Monday Nov. 11, 2013, in Leicester Square, London. 'Catching Fire' is the second installment in 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

  • Elizabeth Banks

    American actress Elizabeth Banks poses for photographers as she arrives on the red carpet for the World Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', on Monday Nov. 11, 2013, in Leicester Square, London. 'Catching Fire' is the second installment in 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

  • Liam Hemsworth

    Australian actor Liam Hemsworth poses for photographers as he arrives on the red carpet for the World Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', on Monday Nov.11, 2013, in Leicester Square, London. 'Catching Fire' is the second installment in 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

  • Jena Malone

    American actress Jena Malone poses for photographers as she arrives on the red carpet for the World Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', on Monday Nov. 11, 2013 in Leicester Square, London. 'Catching Fire' is the second installment in 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

  • Jena Malone

    American actress Jena Malone poses for photographers as she arrives on the red carpet for the World Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', on Monday Nov. 11, 2013 in Leicester Square, London. 'Catching Fire' is the second installment in 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    American actress Jennifer Lawrence poses for photographers as she arrives on the red carpet for the World Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', on Monday Nov. 11, 2013 in Leicester Square, London. 'Catching Fire' is the second installment in 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

  • Jennifer Lawrence

    American actress Jennifer Lawrence poses for photographers as she arrives on the red carpet for the World Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', on Monday Nov. 11, 2013 in Leicester Square, London. 'Catching Fire' is the second installment in 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

  • Sam Claflin and Laura Haddock

    English actors Sam Claflin and Laura Haddock pose for photographers as they arrive on the red carpet for the World Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', in London, Monday Nov. 11, 2013. 'Catching Fire' is the second installment in 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)

  • Sam Claflin and Laura Haddock

    English actors Sam Claflin and Laura Haddock pose for photographers as they arrive on the red carpet for the World Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', in London, Monday Nov. 11, 2013. 'Catching Fire' is the second installment in 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. (Photo by Jon Furniss/Invision/AP)