Tag Archives: Katniss

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)


I didn’t have high hopes for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. Apart from having heard mixed things about it, Mockingjay is my least favourite book of the trilogy, plus I felt Part 1 was a relative disappointment given the bar set by the first two entries. Bearing that in mind, the final film instalment turned out better than expected, superior to Part 1 but still a few grades behind The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.

The biggest problem I had with it still stems from the fact that the final book was split into two films. It’s no secret I hate such greedy decisions, especially when the third book is, in my mind, the weakest and least action-packed of the lot. And yet, they somehow managed to base two movies on it, resulting in a whopping 260 minutes of screen time — 123 minutes (Part 1) + 137 minutes (Part 2).

I still believe they could have easily adapted Mockingjay into a 150-minute movie, or even a 165-minute movie, and the result would have been spectacular. It’s not hard to see where they could have trimmed the fat. The vast majority of Part 1 was pretty much all fat. I can’t even recall three significant plot points from that entire movie.

Similarly, the first part of Part 2 was a little slow for my liking, even though it picks up right at the cliffhanger Part 1 left off (the two films were actually shot simultaneously). For those who don’t remember, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has gone nuts, and Katniss the Mockingjay (Jennifer Lawrence) is still obsessing about killing the evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland), while Gale (Liam Hemsworth) continues to be the equivalent of Taylor Lautner from Twilight, and Woody Harrelson continues to look drunk. In the meantime, Julianne Moore’s President Coin continues to rally the rebels as they prepare for a final assault on the Capitol. Oh, and the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman continues to look very much alive as head gamesmaker Plutarch thanks to the wonders of modern technology.

The star-studded cast of Oscar winners has always been one of the biggest strengths of the Hunger Games franchise, and in this final film they certainly don’t disappoint. As trite as some of the verbal confrontations are, these great actors manage to make them as dramatic and believable as they could have been.

Watching this film, however, I got the sense that it was made with more the hardcore fans in mind, as real time and effort was put into building the dynamics between the characters for maximum emotional impact. There is no shortage of long, lingering takes for those who want to savour every last second these characters appear on the big screen. That’s great for fanatics who are genuinely and emotionally invested in the story, but for casual viewers like me, who may have read the books but can’t remember much about them, all that shit is kinda boring.

The pace and excitement do pick up considerably as Katniss and her propaganda film making crew led wonderfully by Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer make their final journey toward the centre of the Capitol, but there are a lot of things about this part of the movie that don’t make much sense if you think about it. The execution might be strong, but there’s no denying that the plotline is somewhat contrived and filled with a sense of inevitability. Maze Runner: Scorch Trials got ridiculed for following the typical “point A to Point B” template, so I don’t see why the Hunger Games should get a free pass.

Anyway, while the production itself is top notch as always, I felt there were a lot of missed opportunities. Some of the “big” moments could have been handled better — at times it was rushed, others were telegraphed miles in advance. Further, we also don’t get to see all the action because the entire film is based around Katniss’s point of view. So much of the climatic large-scale action I would have loved to have seen was only told to us after the fact or implied. I understand that’s how it was with the book too, but that’s an instance where I wouldn’t have minded had they deviated from the source material.

That said, the smaller-scale action scenes we ended up getting featured some excellent set pieces that were more thrilling and frightening than I had anticipated. It fits in well with the dark tones and melancholy draped over the entire movie. I actually quite liked how a major young adult franchise went for a realistic and bittersweet note in its finale rather than the typical sentimental and uplifting one, and I even found myself a little moved by the end of it all.

Ultimately, Mockingjay – Part 2 is a mixed bag. I had no problem with all the “character  development” sequences that ate up much of the screen time, though I couldn’t help feel that there were too many superfluous scenes and moments that just dragged on a few seconds too long. It may be a speckle of shit here and speckle of shit there, but eventually the shit adds up. I will admit that I liked the film a lot more by the end of it than at about the halfway mark. If I had cared more about the story and characters I might have not minded the “shitty” bits as much, but either way I still think Mockingjay – Part 2 could have been a lot better.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Hunger Games (2012)

Perhaps it’s because I haven’t read any of the books yet.

I’ve seen all eight Harry Potters and all four Twilights, and none of the 12 films could compare with the experience I had with The Hunger Games. I suppose the only reason I’m comparing them are because they’re all based on bestselling young adult books that have crossed over to mainstream readers, but The Hunger Games was just so much more up my alley than the other two — dark, gritty, violent and bleak, and with no sappy romances in sight.

Set in a post-apolcalytpic dystopian society, The Hunger Games is a yearly reality TV contest where a boy and girl from each of the nation’s 12 districts are thrust into a kill-or-be-killed contest where there can only be one winner (don’t worry, there is a reason for it). The story focuses on Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a tough girl from District 12 who makes the ultimate sacrifice and is thrust into this nightmarish world where she must use all her skill and wit to survive. The premise is similar to the Japanese novel Battle Royale (which was also adapted into a film) — I’ve read the parts of the manga version — but I certainly wouldn’t call it a rip-off.

Despite its running time of 142 minutes, The Hunger Games didn’t feel nearly as long. The set up could have been shorter, but it was executed brilliantly, slowly peeling away the layers as the true nature of the games is revealed to the audience. The genuine action doesn’t really begin until halfway through, but the tension is maintained and built up right from the beginning, and when the brutal and bloody games finally start, the jolt of exhiliaration hits you like a kick to the stomach (at least it did for me).

The Hunger Games would not have been anywhere near as good without the outstanding performance of Jennifer Lawrence.  Apparently Suzanne Collins, the author of the book who also adapted the screenplay, said Lawrence was the only actress out of the dozens that auditioned for the role that truly captured the character, no mean feat considering some of the other candidates included Hailee Steinfeld, Saoirse Ronan, Chloe Moretz and Emily Browning. In the end, it was the right decision to go with the Academy Award nominated Lawrence, who chanelled the inner strength of her character from Winter’s Bone to give bring Katniss to life. She dominates just about every scene in the film and it’s virtually impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. Just compare that to the years of growing pains endured by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson in Harry Potter before they became respectable actors, and the respectability that still eludes the likes of Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner in Twilight!

Lawrence is backed up by a strong supporting cast including Josh Hutcherson (you might remember him from Bridge to Terabithia or Journey to the Center of the Earth), Woody Harrelson (who was a little weird at first but eventually found his mark), Elizabeth Banks (freaky performance), Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Wes Bentley (remember him from American Beauty?), Toby Jones, Lenny Kravitz and Liam Hemsworth (in a surprisingly small role). And a special mention to Isabelle Fuhrman, who was horrifying in Orphan and is pretty scary in this one too.

If there are any complaints, it would have to be the shaky camera employed at times — though I must admit my annoyance was somewhat mitigated because it kind of served a purpose — and the lack of explanation for some of the mechanics of the games (such as how the “sponsorship” and “virtual reality” systems worked). The violence was  unfortunately not displayed very clearly on screen because it had to pass the censors, but I think director Gary Ross (Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) did all that he could to maintain the raw brutality of the games under the restricting circumstances. The film also probably could have fleshed out the political themes strewn throughout a little more but I didn’t find it a big deal considering the target market.

On the whole, The Hunger Games is a compelling, thrilling and often terrifying action-drama that hit almost all the right notes. Given the impossible expectations it carried from the moment it was announced,  I think it did all right. Looking forward to reading the books and Catching Fire (the sequel) when it is hopefully released next year.

4.25 stars out of 5

PS: Huge kudos for not releasing this film in 3D.