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.