It’s days of whine and poses as Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen trudges along to the prolonged conclusion of Francis Lawrence’s excruciating The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (D+). For a heroine who came on the scene so strong in the original film, it really was a long slog through three more movies to drain the character of any recognizable character whatsoever. After treading water and biding time for more than an hour, the film introduces an oil spill sequence and a slime-zombie battle to rattle the narrative out of complete somnolence. The plot to assassinate President Snow (Donald Sutherland) meanders and fizzles; the inexplicable Peeta versus Gale fauxmance wobbles into utter nonsense and the whole enterprise just teeters to the finale. Aimless in direction, bleak in set design and imagination and largely existent to squeeze more money out of the franchise, this sequel is notable for career-low wooden performances from Oscar winners Lawrence, Julianne Moore and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. For completists only, this part four is a complete bore.
It’s becoming abundantly clear that Jennifer Lawrence’s protagonist is much more interesting as a fighting archer than a reluctant war propagandist, but the protracted franchise must march on to rebellion and more box office receipts. Francis Lawrence’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I (C-) is one of those creaky transitional episodes in which much is promised for a grand finale, but not much actually happens within the actual film. Given the blank line readings by all involved, it could easily be Attack of the Drones: Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland and Woody Harrelson are not immune to the film’s reverse-trackerjack of deadly dialogue. The film’s final act, which is ostensibly the middle stuff of a drawn-out two-part treatment of one book, enlivens a bit, with some legitimate battles and even a mildly pleasant honkeytonk number delivered by Miss Katniss to break up the talky treacle. Largely missing are the futuristic flourishes, sinister surprises or even tender touches that marked the series’ earlier installments. Josh Hutcherson gets scant screen time as the series’ inexplicable love interest, and Liam Hemsworth might as well be a hologram given how little our heroine regards his flesh and blood series of manly sacrifices for her (lil’ bro of People Magazine‘s cover-hunk just can’t get past first base). It’s telling that one of the plot points revolves around Jennifer Lawrence’s heroine being an unconvincing actress and needing to improv a bit in real-life dramatic situations to make her rebellion propaganda seem authentic. Perhaps that capable A-list acting will come in Part 4, er, Part II. Most of what happens in this subpar story could have been summed up in a quick prologue to the finale.
The second of the Hunger Games films is called Catching Fire (C-). It rarely does. Director Francis Lawrence’s unremarkable style can best be described as a cloud of smoke that poisons most of the charm and intrigue right out of the dome. When this sequel bothers to do more than simply retread the formula of the vastly more entertaining first film, it presents second rate drama, middling adventure and a love triangle most tepid. With major character traits a side pony and archery ability, Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss breathlessly bemoans her status in her dystopian future. She’s hardly got her heroine hat on. Josh Hutcherson’s unleavened performance as Peeta is basically little more than a damsel in distress role. And the plot and screenplay? Pure jabberjay!
Note: This movie was filmed in Georgia. Thanks to friend Jay Croft and StoryCroft blog for the mention of our site.
Gary Ross’ The Hunger Games (B+) imagines a dystopian future in which territories of our modern land have to fight against each other on live television as sacrifice and bloodsport for the ruling political regime. Jennifer Lawrence, our archer heroine, is ready to break all the rules as she enters the arena. The film has an interesting vocabulary and fascinating details, plus there are nice supporting turns from Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz and others. It’s very high-concept, but I liked the way the protagonist handled the tablestakes.