Well, finally. We’ve reached the end of the Hunger Games saga. What started as three books written by Suzanne Collins (first one published in 2008) has finished as four films. I felt about the movies the same way I felt about the books – I liked the first one, and they went progressively downhill from there. Yes, they were YA (young adult) novels, just like the Divergent, Twilight, and Mortal Instruments books. As an aside, have you started writing your YA novels yet? You probably should, chances are you’ll get them made into movies. The trailer for the next one was already in front of this most recent Hunger Games movie – the 5th Wave.
To sum up the Hunger Games story to this point (sticking just with the movies), in the first movie, Katniss Everdeen is a headstrong young woman living in a post-apocalyptic North America consisting of 12 districts ruled by a wealthy capitol who spends her time illegally hunting with her buddy/romantic interest Gale to provide food for her younger sister Primrose and slightly out-of-it mother who hasn’t been the same since she lost their father.
Every year, the capitol hosts the Hunger Games, where one boy and one girl from each of the 12 districts fight to the death in a deadly, carefully-crafted arena as the fight is broadcast to everyone in PanEm. Basically it’s to remind the districts who is in charge. Well, Katniss’s little sister gets picked as tribute for district 12, and Katniss can’t allow that, so she volunteers as tribute. She and Peeta Mellark, the male tribute from 12, suddenly get whisked away to be pampered and prepped to participate. They get a little training, and a little hoopla – and come up with the plan to play to the audience with a fake love story to help them survive. In the process, Katniss decides all this is nonsense, and makes an enemy of the President of PanEm, President Snow. She breaks the rules to ensure that either both she and Peeta survive, or both she and Peeta die – well, since it is being broadcast, and all of PanEm has fallen for their faked love story – they are allowed to live, but Snow is not happy with her.
In Catching Fire – Katniss’s act of rebellion has started to cause folks in the other districts to rise up against Capitol Peacekeepers here and there – what with her stoic hand signals and catchy whistling she picked up from Rue. People suddenly start to realize they don’t want to give their kids up to death games and start pushing back on the capitol. Annoyed, Snow enacts the ‘Quarter Quell’, meaning that from all previous Hunger Games champions, one male and one female from each district is chosen to go back to the arena to fight. Since Katniss is the only female champion in 12, she knows what’s up – Snow is trying really hard to get her dead to quash the rising rebellion. Well, she heads back in, and sure enough – she lives through most of it again – being airlifted out at the end, as Peeta is captured by the capitol. Who knows what dastardly things Snow will do to him (and who cares?)?!
In MockingJay part 1 (because we need to squeeze as much money out of the fans as we can, so of course the last movie is split in two) we find that Katniss is being cared for in the mysterious district 13, which was not wiped out complete as the capitol said. There, under the watchful eye of Rebellion President Coin, she is groomed as the MockingJay – the figurehead of the rebellion. They shoot a bunch of propaganda films with Katniss to send out to PanEm to fire up the already angry citizens. Meanwhile, Snow brainwashes Peeta, and uses him to make his own propaganda films, badmouthing Katniss. The rebels mount a rescue, and Peeta gets brought back to 13, where he promptly attempts to choke Katniss to death.
That brings you up to speed for Mocking Jay part 2 – now, admittedly, that does skip several important details, like who the other champions are, who the gamemakers are, who’s leading this rebellion, and who’s working for Snow. If you haven’ t read the books but liked the movies – I recommend the books, they have more details, and are quick reads. Spoiler-alert from this point forward.
This one begins with Katniss being treated for a sore neck after Peeta’s attempted choking. She checks in with Peeta, and he’s fighting through his brainwashing, but not really there yet. She recovers enough to attend Finnick and Annie’s wedding - which was similar to the Bill/Fleur wedding in the last Harry Potter – in the books it’s a big deal because you’ve spent a lot of time with these characters, but a lot of that was glossed over in the movies, so the wedding loses a little meaning. She tells Johanna that she’s going to kill Snow – enough with all this messing around. She sneaks off to the front line (because while she’s been making propaganda films, others were out there fighting). Once she arrives, she’s assigned to a unit – but since Coin caught wind of her attempt to sneak out, her unit is Gale and her camera people again, so they can continue to use her as media. Her mission has been changed from single-stealth-assassin mission to last-unit-broadcast mission.
She and Gale conspire to leave the group so she can kill Snow, but then they encounter some Pods – it seems Snow has had the Hunger Games gamemakers install various things around the capitol that have very unique and deadly tricks here and there to prevent people from getting through. They lose a few folks in a tar-based wire-stabby pod, and Coin sends them Peeta, because that will look good on film? Or just cause friction between Katniss and Gale? Or just make everything more difficult? In any case, he’s still not operating at top level, and flips out from time to time. Eventually, she and Gale make it through to just outside the President’s compound because he’s invited all of the capitol residents to come there for safety – there are some explosions, so the Peacekeepers tell everyone to pass their kids forward, to get the kids in the compound first. Medical personnel are running in to help them – including Katniss’s sister Prim. Now, this is a bit sudden – but it happens like that in the book too – Prim’s been working toward being a doctor, so she’s dropped on the front line of the battle when medical folks are needed. Suddenly, a capitol plane flies overhead, bombing the compound, and taking out the kids, and everyone in that area who was helping.
Katniss wakes up again, learning Prim is dead and once the capitol saw Snow bomb their kids – they helped overthrow him. Coin has Palpatine-d herself into the Presidency (“Things are a bit dicey right now, so I’ll go ahead and take charge until we have the time for a full vote” – sure lady, sure.). Katniss wanders around to find that Snow is being held captive in his greenhouse – he tells her Coin was the one who bombed the kids/Prim, which causes Katniss to get angry on a new level. She cuts Gale out of her life, realizing that was one of his plans that Coin decided to use. Not really his fault – but hey, she’s pretty angry. She gets summoned by Coin to a meeting with all the surviving Hunger Games Champions – apparently Peeta is almost back to normal. Coin – get this – wants to reinstate the Hunger Games to keep the Capitol people in line, she asks the champions to vote. Katniss – get this – agrees with her, but mainly because she’s hatching a plot in her head – she demands to be the one to execute Snow, which Coin grants.
As Katniss is walking very slowly down the ‘avenue of champions’, Coin gives a big time speech about being united and working together, and that Snow is going to be punished. Katniss walks up, and gets her arrow ready, then suddenly shoots Coin instead of Snow – the people rush forward and tear Snow limb from limb, and once again – Katniss gets taken away. The people get to vote on their new leader, and Plutarch Heavensbee sends her a letter, letting her know he’s not surprised, but proud of her.
The story ends with PanEm rebuilding as Katniss heads back to District 12 to retire. Peeta ends up there too, and the two of them end up with two kids as the movie ends. In the book, there is a line where she says that she eventually learns to love Peeta - how's that for settling?
This movie, like the previous two, was directed by Austrian director Francis Lawrence who had also done Constantine, I Am Legend, and Water for Elephants. It explains why the weird sewer ‘mutts’ in this movie look like the demons in Constantine, which also look a little like the creatures in I Am Legend.
In any case, he does a fine job – the few action scenes are very good, and certainly keep you on the edge of your seat. The problem is that there are just not enough of them. The majority of the movie is very slow and talky. Not his fault – it stays very true to the book. There’s not much to say about the cast, they’re the same they’ve been for all the movies:
- By this time, Jennifer Lawrence’s could probably play Katniss in her sleep, and for some scenes it seems like she is. Not an issue, that’s what is expected from Katniss in this movie. She’s tired, frustrated, desperate, and desolated in this particular story. There is no happiness for Katniss – even in the epilogue, she seems resigned rather than happy.
- Josh Hutcherson does a good job playing Peeta – good enough that every time he kept insisting that he was a danger to the group and they should leave him behind, I agreed. He’s been my least favorite character from the start – certainly not Hutcherson’s fault, in fact, I would say he does a great job with what he’s given.
- Liam Hemsworth plays Gale, and as much as they tried to sell it as a love triangle, it never really was. Katniss is never as into Gale as he is into her. Gale is committed to the revolution and shifts to being a soldier first, and he’s never really developed as much as he could be.
- Woody Harrelson plays the only former district 12 champion, Haymitch. He was reluctant to train Peeta and Katniss at the beginning, but now has grown to be a great friend to them. Harrelson is also responsible for a favorite part of mine in the movie, when he says goodbye to Elizabeth Banks’s Effie, the kiss he gives her was improvised by Woody. It was a genuine and sweet moment that I’m grateful they left in!
- Just a quick follow up on Elizabeth Banks – Effie has gotten back some of her awesome outfits in this movie – and I have to say that she’s been one of the most interesting characters in the series. She could have been written off as a ditzy capitol stooge, but Banks gives her layers of kindness to show she really cares about her charges and what happens to them.
- Donald Sutherland is always a fantastic villain and he nails the oozing evil that is Snow. I especially enjoyed the glee he has as he gets to tell Katniss that it was Coin who betrayed her.
- The late Philip Seymour Hoffman had already shot some scenes as Plutarch Heavensbee, so those were no issues – having him send a letter to Katniss instead of visiting her in person at the end was a fitting send-off. There were a few times where he was noticeably CGIed into a scene, but they weren’t too bad.
- Julianne Moore brings a very cold decisiveness to President Coin. She’s all grays and lifelessness. She wants her rebellion to succeed at any cost, and will not hesitate to use anyone to get there.
- Willow Shields plays Prim, and her death in the movie is just as quick and sudden as it was in the book. I always felt that was unfair– she was the reason her sister volunteered – the whole point of these books - I always felt she should have a hero’s death, and honestly, it basically happens off-screen.
- Sam Claflin plays Finnick, he’s basically there to help Katniss out, and keep her motivated on her path.
- Mahershala Ali plays Boggs, who starts to believe in Katniss – even when she wants to go against the orders he was given by Coin.
- Jena Malone plays Johanna, and while there’s not much of her in this movie, she’s pretty badass for the moments she has.
- Jeffrey Wright very briefly shows up as Beetee again. Not much else to say there, he really has nothing to do in this one. At least in the last one he got to make Katniss some fancy arrows.
- There was some pre-movie marketing stating that Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma and Lady Brianne of Tarth from GOT) was in this movie, and let me tell you – what a huge waste of an amazing lady. She gets one scene, the one they show in the commercials.
I gave the first movie an 8, the second an 8 (should have maybe been a 7) and the third a 6. Like I said, they get progressively less interesting, as Katniss becomes more and more of a pawn in other people’s games. In this one she starts to reclaim part of her own destiny, but never really comes into it.
7 out of 10 – certainly entertaining in parts – but I still like the first one the best. I’ll bump this one up a bit. Gained points for the tar-wire trap, scary. Lost points for Peeta being so annoying. Gained points for Katniss shooting Coin in cold-blood at the end; Lost points for that being the only thing Katniss is able to do to on her own.
Bonus Video 1 –How the Hunger Games Should Have Ended
Bonus Video 2 Cast Interviews…