The third Hunger Games movie seemed a wee bit…uneventful. That’s what happens when moviemakers take a book that wasn’t any longer than the previous two and splits it into two movies. Stuff needs to be added to justify spreading things out that much.
The result is the second part of what should have been one movie had all the resolution set up by a largely actionless movie where the two most exciting things to occur were a bombing campaign on a hospital and Peeta thrashing on a bed. How did the series resolve all this? SPOILER-free review after the cut.
Maybe it was due to the fact I had a bad seat, but the movie didn’t do much for me. I wasn’t at some fancy Alamo Drafthouse type of place where there isn’t such a thing as a bad seat, or so the legends hold. No, I was at a Regal. And while I wasn’t in the front row, I was on the far end of the third row, so I suspect my review might reflect that, but I don’t think so.
The strength of The Hunger Games is Suzanne Collins’ story. Whether she ripped off Battle Royale or not, Collins put together a story that comments on modern media culture and reality television, plus shows the repercussions of violence on both the individual and societal level. Katniss and the other Hunger Games victors all suffer to one extent or another from PTSD. And while I know a few folks who think Katniss chose wrong when she resolves the Gale-Peeta love triangle, I would actually argue Katniss ends up with the person who best understood her, all she went through, and what it really means to survive. As a result, I never minded that particular part of the ending. Katniss got the ending she deserved, and I think the movie might have actually spelled that out better than Collins’ novel did.
As for the movie itself, two things strike me.
- Wouldn’t a siege of the Capitol work better than what the rebels actually did?
- What a waste of acting talent!
Seriously on the second point. There’s a lot of prominent actors here with very little to do. Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, and Elizabeth Banks might as well not even be in this movie. Julianne Moore was largely overqualified given her role. Woody Harrelson has a couple scenes, including one I suspect was meant to be done by the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who was obviously not available for reshoots. Gwendoline Christie was in exactly one scene. Natalie Dormer and Michelle Forbes got some stuff to do, but really, none of these actors, many of whom have Oscars or at least nominations in their personal histories, did much or had much that seemed to require a famous face. Adding prestige acting talent for most of these characters is unnecessary. The movie was guaranteed to sell tickets.
Remember, someone thought this story that starts with kids killing each other was worth a theme park.
I couldn’t even say I was all that impressed with Jennifer Lawrence. She has one or two moments I thought she handled really well, like when she finally went off on her longtime nemesis Buttercup the cat (even if the audience I was with thought it funny), but mostly the role didn’t seem to demand much of her. Lawrence is a hugely talented actor, a fact made all the more obvious due to the trailer for her next movie, Joy, which ran before this one. Lawrence can pull out some pretty powerful performances when paired with director David O. Russell, and Joy looks like it might be continuing that streak.
Lawrence had some nice speeches in this Hunger Games movie, but really, that trailer before the movie made it look more like she was phoning in most of this one.
That said, two cast members actually did some great work. Jena Malone’s Johanna was barely in the movie, but she brought in some raw energy for her few scenes that mostly made me wish she was in the movie a bit more than she was. And Donald Sutherland had the President Snow role down pat. He had the right amount of swarmy sleaze combined with the gravitas of a career politician. The man oozed evil while still bringing the sort of charisma needed for a memorable villain.
The Hunger Games is, above all, a dark story. The movie, to its credit, does not shy away from the darker aspects of the finale. Katniss spends most of the series as a pawn in various games. This final story has her finally taking agency for herself, to no longer be a symbol for someone else’s propaganda. Taken as a whole, the story shows a girl who gradually learns to care for people outside her own immediate family, undergoes a lot of trauma, and will never live a serene life as a result. The story made the series what it was, but the best of the films was clearly the second one.
And this one could have been much better! Having a first part that was all set-up, followed by this one a year later that was all resolution, emphasizes why the last two movies really should have just been one. Not a good way to end a franchise.
I’m giving this movie a six and a half out of ten sewer mutts.