The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 Review

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Believe it or not, I actually went to watch this film at the early midnight screening. Am I that much of a fan? Well, I read the books so that’s a good enough reason to watch the next one despite the first two only getting 3 stars here on the blog. I had some hope that this installment would improve upon the others, but it’s actually regressed in a few ways. We see Attack on Titan elements in one corner and a broken Katniss who resembles Simon from some of the dicier episodes of Gurren Lagann. These things do not ultimately mix into an epic film.

No worries, this review won’t have any real spoilers for the film. The flaws are general enough so that I can expose them without using it. The plot follows Katniss as she tries to move on from the traumatic experiences of the first two films, but without a whole lot of luck. The resistance movement wants her to be their symbol, but she knows that the more that she helps them, the worse off that Peeta will be. It’s a lose lose situation since the government will mess with Peeta regardless of what she does. She can only continue to go through the motions and hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

The film really focuses on Katniss’ development so not a whole lot happens here. The government talks tough for a while and Katniss also gets some “Burn” lines, but both sides are essentially at a stand still. The set up basically goes on for two hours and we only get a few brief action scenes. Some are so brief that they barely even count. Remember the scene where Katniss shoots down a plane in the trailer? That would be one of the action scenes and it’s technically under a minute long. A single shot is hardly an action scene, but I still have to count it or things would get dicey for the film.

The classic theme for the emblem/franchise is great as the whistle is definitely iconic at this point. Beyond that, the soundtrack is not very noticeable. You will probably not remember most of the tunes by the time that you are through with it. I don’t think that I remembered any of them except for the classic whistle because it’s all very generic theater type music.

I also don’t really care for the ending. It’s not a scene that will really make you hyped for the sequel. It’s just another opportunity to remind us that one of the characters has already been broken down so much that there really won’t be a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s to further the film’s dark and dreary tone more. You want a set up for the next film to be something epic so that people will have something to talk about for a year. The after credits scene in Avengers is a great example of that. Soul Eater had one of my favorite cliffhangers where the protagonist arrives at the villain’s base to fight. While Hunger Games may not be able to do something like that, a much better ending would have been for Katniss to have: A. been holding a cup and then clenching her fist to make it break or B. Shooting an arrow into a bullseye and saying something along the lines of “President Snow, prepare yourself!” Those would have been more exhilarating ways to end the film. We would have had a determined main character who’s ready to fight and that’s an ending that you would definitely remember for a long time.

The film does have one area where it improves a lot over the previous titles. There are no real animal violence scenes to be found here and that’s a huge positive. No dogs running around and even Katniss finally learns that animal hunting is wrong. It only took this experience of being hunted to help her realize that, but it’s better late than never. There isn’t a lot of action, which can be a bit of a negative in itself, but it also means that we don’t get gritty Hobbit styled action scenes that hurt the film in its own way. I didn’t care for the action scenes in the first two Hunger Games films, but that’s because most of the fight scenes don’t get to happen because of the stage gimmicks and none of them were really any fun. They certainly weren’t Mission Impossible or Captain America level.

As I’ve already mentioned, I didn’t like Katniss as the main character. She’s not determined or portrayed as very tough here since she’s still getting over the Hunger Games. She’s already destroyed people and been in life or death situations so she should be getting used to that by now. Her reaction upon seeing a bunch of skulls and bones was wayyyyyy too dramatic and I didn’t think that it made a whole lot of sense in her position. It’s tragic of course, but not enough to make her hit the ground and gasp. Her only good scene is probably when she shoots down the ships from the trailer, but that’s simply not enough. She never declares that they should take the fight to the villains and she’s on the defensive the entire film. Her only brief physical fight makes her look very bad since she could not do a single thing. Katniss is easily becoming one of my least favorite protagonists and while she will never be as bad as James Bond or Captain Kirk, she is fading very quickly. Main characters should always be brave or at least tough. If you’re not either one of those things…then it’s going to be a difficult road.

President Snow doesn’t really appear all that much, but we still get scenes where we get to see him grin or verbally destroy Katniss. It’s about all that he gets to do since he’s the kind of villain who just hides behind his minions for the whole film. Gale is around for most of the film, but he doesn’t really do anything. He just tries to get some romance and he’s here to remind us that Peeta can’t be trusted. I definitely didn’t like Gale and he certainly doesn’t help Katniss snap out of her slump.

Peeta’s role can’t fully be discussed here, but let’s just say that he’s one of those guys who’s in a pretty grim situation with no real hope left. So, he doesn’t get a chance to look very good. He gets to be on TV a lot though so that’s always a plus. Elfie is fairly unlikable as well. She has a few moments that are supposed to make the audience chuckle, (They succeeded by the way) but that’s not enough to make her a strong supporting character.

The head honcho is decent, but she just doesn’t seem to have a chance here. She’s taking a big gamble on Katniss, but it doesn’t change the fact that the heroes are seriously outmatched. That being said, she’s better than most of the other characters. Haymitch’s role is very small and he only gets a few quick scenes so that we can remember him. That’s about it…maybe he’ll do more in the sequel.

Mockingjay also starts to write the series into a corner since the Capital is so much stronger than the Districts. Do the heroes really expect to win this fight? We get a scene where some of the rebels fight back and it takes about 60+ casualties to take out about 6 guards. They’re never going to win the war like that and the Capital can just fire off a missile to even the odds in an instant. Everything is completely stacked on the side of evil and a few arrows aren’t going to stop that. This is just a case of the villain’s getting too much resources on their side for a believable ending to occur.

The film’s overall bleak tone also doesn’t help it develop any moments to help it rise up the ranks. There are no moments for you to cheer or grin in excitement. Almost every scene involves someone getting blown up, remembering explosions, or fearing the inevitable. That doesn’t make for a very compelling film and a different main character really could have helped that. I do have to give props Katniss’ sister though for remembering her cat through thick and thin. Protecting one’s pet is a duty that must be taken seriously no matter what trouble arises.

Since this is a pretty negative review, I thought that I should quickly mention a few little things that would have helped the film a lot. Giving Katniss Captain Kirk’s courage would have been a solid start. Next up, give the villains less screentime so that we can see Katniss get a new weapon to help her even the fight. Third, make an explosive EMP that permanently disables a lot of the Capital’s tech. It’s the only thing that can really make this a fair fight. Finally, cut out Peeta’s scenes and some of the scenes where the rebels are just getting beat up by the army. We’re watching a blockbuster, not a tragedy film. I think these changes could have easily helped the film double or triple its score.

Overall, I really didn’t like this installment. I still think that the books worked better as books than movies. Nothing really happens here and there are no likable characters. Once that happens…the film is basically doomed no matter what else happens. The next film should still be a step up, but I wouldn’t count on a giant ratings boost. It’ll be good enough…and I suppose that it’ll have to do. If you want to see a film that’s playing in the theaters right now, I’d recommend just waiting until the next DBZ film comes out in a few months and taking a quick trip to Japan. Your alternative is just checking out Age of Ultron in a few months.

Overall 2/10

Edge of Tomorrow Review

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This film is definitely way more recent than some of the others that I’ve reviewed as of late. (With the exception of Assault on Arkham) It’s time for a good ole 2014 film and this one looked pretty good when I saw the trailer in theaters. I’m always up for an alien invasion film and it looked to have the exciting explosions from Battleship while being a few pegs ahead in terms of writing and character development. It was about as good as I expected although it was also a little lighter on the action than I had anticipated as well.

William Cage is the protagonist of this story and he didn’t really want to get involved in the big battle against the alien invaders. He was happy to report on what was happening, but getting on the frontlines was for the soldiers. Unfortunately, he upsets an army general who forces him to go to the frontlines and things can pretty tough for him from there. He dies. Luckily, Mr. Cage managed to take out a Mimic first, which has allowed him to enter the timestream.

To provide some more background on this, the alien leader has a complete mastery over time. It’s why the aliens are crushing the heroes so easily. Whenever one of the alien Mimics is destroyed, it can go back in time to relive the day and to inform the other aliens of what is going to happen. So, by destroying one of them, Mr. Cage now acts as a Mimic and he gets to relive the day whenever he is destroyed. It’s really not a bad deal, but dying all of the time can be pretty sad as well. I have some issues with this part of the plot, but I’ll get to that later. Mr. Cage realizes that his only way out is to end the invasion once and for all so he will have to locate the war hero (Vrataski) in order to vanquish the aliens once and for all.

Okay, let’s talk about the parts of the plot that I find a little hard to believe. One is that nobody has ever destroyed a Mimic at close range before. I find that really hard to believe considering how long the war has been going on. From the start of the film, they act as if the war has been going on for years and years. America didn’t even join in at first, but we hit pretty hard when we did go in. So, there should be other humans that have obtained this ability. By “more” I’d say at least 10-100. The odds of finding a Mimic are apparently 1/1000 or something like that, but that’s not a terrible odd when you’re involved in a war.

Another dicey part is the hiding place of the master alien. Let’s just say that it picked a very iconic and legendary position to set up shop. How could nobody go to this area during the entire war? It’s not very feasible to think that the alien can easily escape and its travel speed is likely very slow. The heroes were definitely slacking off here and the governments should have been on top of this.

William Cage is a pretty good main character. Unfortunately, he still does suffer from the negatives that plague most mainstream leads. No matter how serious the situation is, he quickly thinks of romance and comes up with some terrible reasons to try and jumpstart this. It’s played for laughs of course, but it certainly doesn’t help his case. I do like how he immediately resorted to blackmail though since that felt pretty “American.” No offense intended of course, but he just did what seems natural to many people at his level. Why risk his life for our planet? He eventually learns how to fight though and he does a pretty good job of taking on the enemies. He’s a little slow on the draw at first, but he becomes a pretty capable warrior by the end. The film takes place over a span of around 1 year based on the amount of days that he had to relive. That’s a lot of time and it’s a wonder that he kept it together. Cage is a pretty decent lead, but I guess he’s pretty interchangeable. I’ll take him over James Bond or Jack Sparrow though and that’s already a pretty solid step up. For the most part, he really he is a solid character, but he’ll strike you as just being very generic.

Ms. Vrataski is the hero who has slain many aliens and she is supposed to be virtually unstoppable. There is a plot twist about this that really eliminates most of her reputation though. I suppose that a figure head is always necessary to win the big battles, but she’s only pretty good at fighting. I wouldn’t call her legendary or exceptional. Especially at one point towards the middle of the film where the aliens continue to best her. I have to say that she was pretty underwhelming although you may have already surmised that from this paragraph. She tries really hard to be the next fan favorite character who’s as emotionless as Mikasa or Sai, but it just doesn’t work here. I assume that she has some kind of tragic past, but the film (thankfully) doesn’t explore this and you just wonder why she’s so mean to the main character. I would be too if I was in her position, but then she needs to back it up a little more while on the field. We also can’t forget how she left Cage to die in one of the first scenes. She’s just not hero material.

It’s time to mention another part that I found hard to believe. A lot of those in this film, but keep in mind that it’s an alien invasion film that deals with time travel and both of those genres already tend to have this “weaknesses”. Mr. Cage knows way more than he should. I don’t see how he would ever learn about someone’s true name through their origin. Most of the other pieces of intel that he acquires off screen are pretty believable, but at the same time it is still hard to picture for others. Even knowing so much about the Secretary was a little dicey at this point. Reliving a day an infinite amount of times is great, but there’s still so much that you can do in a day. Would someone really trust you with their ultimate secret after a single day? I don’t think so.

Aside from that, the film does a good job of avoiding the mainstream film holes. No animal violence, and the slight bits with romance are purely through dialogue and nothing is shown. That’s always a good thing and the action is pretty fun without being over the top in a negative way like we’ve been seeing recently with blockbusters.

The fight scenes aren’t a huge focus of the film, but they were very well done. The aliens are actually some of the fastest creatures that we’ve seen in this kind of a film. I’d actually take one of these against a Xenomorph, Predator, Chitauri, or a number of others. They don’t typically use projectiles, but they’re incredibly fast. If anyone’s seen Attack on Titan, they use a similar spin move to Levi’s. If you haven’t seen it, just picture a top once you spin it. Then imagine that the aliens can keep up this speed as they slice and dice throughout the war. I really liked these guys! The aliens are strategic and very deadly. It’s hard to imagine the army winning a single battle, but the film actually does provide us with an acceptable answer to that question.

Overall, Edge of Tomorrow is a pretty good alien invasion film. I would have liked to have seen the actual battle against the aliens some more or maybe our government leaders and how they plan out their next strikes. I think Cage’s plot was actually less interesting than those would have been, but it’s still good for what it was. We learned that you never trifle with the government as seen in one of the early scenes. I do applaud Mr. Cage for attempting to run though since at least he didn’t go down without a fight. I recommend Edge of Tomorrow as a solid alien invasion film, but don’t go in expecting this to be as thought proboking as other titles in its two genres.It’s a fun summer blockbuster and that’s good enough for me.

Overall 7/10