The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is superior to the first in almost every way. I'm a big fan of the first two books, the third one not so much, and was beyond pleased with the quality of the first film. Catching Fire manages to up the first film by telling a more compelling story, featuring deeper emotion and even manages to fix the minor gripes I had with the first film, the very very minor gripes I had with the first film.
The cinematography and direction was outstanding. The biggest, and most common complaint about the first Hunger Games was the cinematography. It was all over the place and occasionally unwatchable due to the over use of shaky cam. Fortunately, Francis Lawrence has arrived at the helm and he practically eradicates the pesky fowl know as shaky cam, making for a much more watchable and more enjoyable film.
Many aspects of the movie were skimmed part or were rushed. As I'd read the book prior to watching the movie I knew everything that was going to happen and what was about to appear on screen. Because of this, I felt as if the film adaptation skimmed through various aspects of the novel, or skipped them entirely. Not only did they do this, but even when not comparing the book, scenes felt rushed through and shoehorned in. It's not a major issue, but it's me nitpicking.
There's too much time spent outside of the arena. This time around, the film is the story of Katniss' life and the effects of having two victors last year. Because of this, the film isn't meant to focus on the Hunger Games themselves. For what it is, it's beyond fine, but I couldn't help as to wanting more from the movie. I wanted to spend a bit more time in arena and a bit less beforehand. We know the outcome of the first half and it's really the second half that we're anticipating.
To sum up The Hunger Games: Catching Fire may spend too much time out of the arena and skimmed past a few scenes, but it's superior to the first in every other way, including the cinematography and direction.