You may recall that I liked the first two HUNGER GAMES movies quite a bit--I even found CATCHING FIRE better than the first one.
What a shame that the series had to end with the two-part clunker that is MOCKINGJAY. I still say that some of this is due to the trendy and profitable insistence on stretching final books in a series into two movies, but that doesn't account for everything. Okay, let's get this review over with--I already wasted too much of my life sitting in the theatre for this and I'm not looking forward to reliving the experience. You already know who plays everybody and what they've been up to, right?
When last we left our motley crew, Katniss had become the figurehead of the revolution and was trying to lead the troops to smash the Capitol. Trouble is, her team wants her more for her propaganda value than her fighting skills. Peeta was rescued from the Capitol but is in a brainwashed state where he's lashing out at Katniss and everything for which she stands.
Long, LONG story short. The faceless masses of the rebel army will do the actual marching on the Capitol, while Katniss and her specially-assigned squad form an elite "propo" unit--rather than engage the enemy, they're assigned to be the television version of the war because they're the faces best associated with the movement. One of them (no spoilers) just got married and Katniss danced at his wedding. What do you think happens to him? (I SAID no spoilers, right?!) And somebody thinks it's a great idea to bring Oofty Goofty along on the mission even though he could 'snap' and attack his teammates at any given moment, because he's a "face," too, right?
The road to the Capitol is heavily mined with 'pods' that can spring any number of death traps on the unit. Hey--now we're talking! We got all of the pontificating, soul-searching and debate out of the way during the deadly dull Part 1, so now we can get back to the actual action and suspense that's ALSO supposed to be part of any effective war movie or dystopian future vision, right?
Well, when Part 2 DOES turn it up, it does a fine job with the imaginative and perfectly visualized lineup of traps and hazards. But it takes quite a while to get to them--and when we DO get to them, they only last for short bursts before everyone sits down to talk again. And talk some more. And soul-search. And pontificate. And debate. I took a bathroom break. When I came back, they were still talking. Then something happened. Then more talk. And it just goes ON like this.
There's one good jump scare leading up to an acceptable ALIENS rehash sequence, and there's a potentially devastating moment that would have packed far more punch had it been led up to with effective urgency and pacing. Then when we finally DO reach the climax we've been building up to for four movies now, THAT is rushed through with a predictable 'swerve,' a setpiece that requires everybody to stand "just so" so Katniss can do what we already figured out, and too many epilogues.
Okay, everybody in this can act. Donald Sutherland's the best thing in this particular movie, though. As for Philip Seymour Hoffman? They used what remaining original footage they had and they had Woody Harrelson read his farewell letter rather than subject us to a CGI mockery, so that's all right. It's not the cast and it's not the special effects. And it's not whether or not you agree with its politics. It's that we've already heard ALL the talk before and that there's nothing wrong with expecting more cinematic excitement to go with it.
And I'll say this much more--this series was far more entertaining when we were all arguing about BATTLE ROYALE, and I'll bet we can ALL agree on THAT at least!
As in not off. If you want to post about mainstream flicks, this is the forum.
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