Action, Adventure, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Film, Francis Lawrence, Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore, Movie, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Political, Review, Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games, Woody Harrelson
By Shane M. Dallmann
First, allow me to set the stage–and NOT by recapping the first two movies.
I’m done with the BATTLE ROYALE argument. I’ve said my piece already, and in the case of this series, the “games” themselves are no longer a going concern. The story is completely different, and I’ll merely allow that the goings-on here are certainly more interesting than anything that happened in BR2.
Then there’s the “one book, two (or three) movies” thing. It was warranted for the HARRY POTTER finale because there really was that much to that book. I refused to sit through the last two TWILIGHT films because I wasn’t going to pay twice for the film experience of what I considered a truly LOUSY book. As for THE HUNGER GAMES? I’ve only read the first one, but the second movie more than held my interest (not to mention that it stood as an improvement over the original) and I wanted to see what happened next.
So. After being manipulated by friends and Capitol alike to represent something she wasn’t, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, of course) has now been forcibly recruited by the rebel faction (led by President Julianne Moore) to appear as a role model in THEIR image and star in propaganda films directed by former gamesmaster Philip Seymour Hoffman. Meanwhile, the Capitol has a hold of Katniss’s two-time partner Peeta and is presenting him as an emotional weapon for THEIR side.
That’s all good stuff, and the story itself continues to intrigue. However… my worst misgivings were realized as the new movie painfully stretched itself out to reach a halfway-point “climax.” As we already know that we’re not going to reach the crucial stakes until the story ITSELF readies itself to end, this half-MOCKINGJAY is bereft of suspense, urgency and energy, despite the perfectly fine and experienced cast. And as we lose the festivities of the Games, we simultaneously lose the colorful contrast between the two worlds, so almost every scene takes on the same shade of gray (which is only remarkable in the transformation of Elizabeth’s Banks’ Effie Trinket into an actual human being–deliberately painted to resemble a cancer survivor concealing a bald head under a tight scarf). There’s no “action” to speak of unless you count wartime bombings and mass shootings; and precious little humor (it’s an absolute breath of fresh air when Woody Harrelson finally makes his entrance) to lighten the load. Oh, okay, Stanley Tucci’s still good even as the somewhat subdued Capitol emcee, but Donald Sutherland only gets one genuinely effective bit near the “ending” (preventing himself from cackling out loud, thankfully).
The entire movie plays like a funeral, with pacing to match (did we really NEED the whole “Oh, no, she went to rescue the cat!” sequence, or was that just another way to pad this thing out?). Human remains, dirges, and, oh yes, crying. PLENTY of crying.
Yeah, I’ll show up next year to see how it all turns out. I have a feeling we’ll get an exciting wrap-up. Good cast. Good story. Possible compromises (I have no idea how much more Hoffman footage remains to be seen, but from what I heard, he did NOT complete his role before his sad demise). But since they just HAD to milk it, we’ve been sopped with this fitfully engaging slog until the real movie comes along. Perhaps when it’s all available, some unauthorized tinkerer will edit the two movies into a single breathless presentation and show the world how this could and should have been done.