The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

 

Panem’s long national nightmare is over. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 brings the saga to a resolution, at last. The film starts slowly, but soon things get real and things go boom.

The first three Hunger Games movies have seen the beginnings of the revolution against President Snow (Donald Sutherland). It’s time for Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Finnick (Sam Claflin), Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and the others to lead the assault on the Capitol.

After dodging bullets from huge mounted machine guns, then escaping a rising black tide that threatens to drown the rebel advance squad, a challenge to Katniss’s leadership is thwarted. A decision to cross the Capitol underground leads to a violent encounter in the sewers with creepy creatures.

As the rebels close in on Snow’s HQ, the final battle feels like an anticlimax. After the surrender and her meeting with Snow, Katniss, prepares to publicly execute him with a well-targeted arrow. A coda that ties things up will make hardcore THG fans happy.

This final film shows again how derivative The Hunger Games saga is. Of course, the game itself is TV reality competition taken to a new, fatal level. The Panem palace guards look amazingly like the Empire’s storm troopers in the Star War films. The sewer creatures resemble Valdemort from the Harry Potter films. The depiction of a structure breaking up recalls similar scenes from Inception. A feline-costumed woman who provides momentary refuge to the rebels could’ve stepped out of the cast of Cats or an Anime convention.

The movies, overall, have been vastly entertaining, thanks to strong casting and brilliant costuming. Considering the billions this franchise has generated, it seems odd to say a final goodbye. Should we be surprised if, in five years maybe, someone floats a possible new movie idea with a story rooted in this universe? I will not be.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 is more than just a bridge to next year’s finale. Things happen. Characters grow.

Having rebuked President Snow (Donald Sutherland), Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) becomes an ally of the rebels. Realizing her power, she agrees to be a voice for those opposing Snow. President Coin (Julianne Moore) leads the opposition with key advisor Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Heavensbee drafts Katniss for a series of videos, directed by Cressida (Natalie Dormer from Game of Thrones). Cressida has a Skrillex haircut and a long vine tattoo on her left side—it’s a distinctive look. (Heavensbee’s guidance reminded me about Hoffman’s role as another crafty political consultant in The Ides of March.)

After scripted attempts at a propaganda clip fall short, Katniss and crew go on location for passionate, ad-libbed speeches that rip the Capitol crew to shreds. There’s also an action segment where Katniss takes down a fighter jet attacking District 8 with a well-directed arrow (with an explosive tip).

All the while, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is ensconced in the Capitol with several other survivors from the most recent Hunger Games. Like Katniss, Peeta is a media tool. Every time he appears on the Capitol’s TV feed, she watches intently.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 brings new versions of certain series characters. Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) is now sober and not happy about it, thanks to Coin’s prohibition of booze. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) has doffed her outrageous wigs and dresses for a do rag and olive drab jumpsuit. Hunky Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is still more like a big brother to Katniss, but there appears to be something stronger between them this time.

Among the questions unanswered in THG: M1… Is Peeta’s call for the rebels to stand down sincere or is he just saying these things to save his skin? Is Snow being overly cocky as he plays mind games with Katniss and the rebels? Do the rebels have necessary firepower to take down the Snow regime? Will Coin turn out to benevolent or will power corrupt? And will Katniss and Peeta ever be a real couple? Stay tuned—Part 2 comes your way in exactly one year!

 

 

 

 

 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire everything is amped up. Everything is more, compared to 2012’s The Hunger Games.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is more skillful, more passionate, more political, more focused. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is more mature, more confident, more clever. President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is more calculating and more concerned about the power and influence Katniss and Peeta are able to command.

After emerging as co-victors of the Hunger Games, the pair are presented to the nation of Panem as a romantic couple. They are heroes. Snow wants them to use their personal appearance tour to trump up support for his political system. When that backfires, he and advisor Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) hatch a plan to kill them off: a new Hunger Games featuring previous winners.

As for the actual kill-or-be-killed game, the competition again closely resembles TV’s Survivor. The game is closely monitored and every element is subject to being reset and reordered. The events of THG:CF deliver a satisfying outcome but leave much unresolved. This film, of course, is designed to set up the next two films.

Two over-the-top characters are even more outrageous in THG:CF. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) wears more eye makeup and her costumes are more ridiculous. Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) as host of the Hunger Games TV show is smarmier this time around. He almost seems in his announcing style to be channeling Michael “Let’s get ready to rumble!” Buffer.

Director Francis Lawrence, whose credits include Constantine, I Am Legend and Water For Elephants, brings amazing visuals and near perfect pacing. Happily, he did not feel compelled to resort to 3D.

It was wonderful at last year’s MTV Movie Awards to hear The Hunger Games actors thank novelist Susan Collins for providing the story that has fascinated millions of readers and moviegoers. Her narrative, her characters and her vision of Panem society are entertaining and thoughtful. I can’t wait for installments 3 and 4.