Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

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DIR: Francis Lawrence • WRI Peter Craig, Danny Strong Pro: Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik • DOP: Jo Willems • ED: Alan Edward Bell, Mark Yoshikawa • MUS: James Newton Howard • CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

There’s something almost redundant about writing a review for a movie like this – a blockbuster ending to a beloved series with marketing on hyperdrive doesn’t need much else to sell tickets. These types of instalments can sometimes feel critic-proof, which is what leads so many of them to be sloppy and… well… just not quite good enough.

Splitting the final book into two movies, Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2, was certainly the right idea – and not just in terms of moneymaking. Mockingjay carries the most action of the series, as Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) comes face to face with her inescapable destiny; an all-out war with the Capitol of Panem. However, the book also carries the emotional weight of the story as Katniss struggles with her intertwining destinies, discovering that there is no ‘right’ decision in war, and that suffering for both you and your loved ones is unavoidable. This salient point, probably the most devastating in this series of young adult novels, is lost in a movie that glories in tactical victories and focuses too heavily on Katniss’s love-triangle with Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Despite its long running time (137 minutes), the movie can’t seem to decide which story it wants to tell more – Katniss Everdeen: war hero, or Katniss Everdeen: lovesick teenager.

That’s not to say the movie is a total wash, as many of the scenes are handled extremely well, and the characterisations are generally spot on. Taken as a standalone, minus the weight of its source material, Mockingjay Part 2 draws all of the threads of story together to a satisfying conclusion. It brings us clearly from Katniss’ beginnings as a volunteer tribute in the first games to her final stand against a tyrannical system of government. Peeta’ rescue from the clutches of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in the last movie, resulting in his brainwashing and attempted murder of Katniss, adds a seamless flow between both parts, and the film hits the ground running. The trouble might be that there is just too much story to tell, and characters like Johanna (Jena Malone) and Finnick (Sam Claflin) fall by the wayside in an attempt to make sense of Katniss’ journey. Still, we spend enough time with Katniss and Gale, Katniss and Peeta, Peeta and Gale, and Katniss by herself to gain insight into how the events of the previous three movies have set the scene for the concluding chapter.

The sad loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who played Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee, during the shoot forced his character to take a back seat, but Woody Harrelson (as Haymitch Abernathy) and Julianne Moore (as President Alma Coin) ably fill the crucial moments with appropriate gravitas. Fans of the books will no doubt delight in pivotal scenes – the storming of ‘The Nut’ in District Two; the sewers of the Capitol; the Star Squad’s propos – while mourning the loss of others. Those who have followed the movies will get closure on their character’s stories, with enough surprises and shocking twists to keep interest high throughout the running time.

Exciting by times and definitely entertaining, the film has done enough to finish the series with a bang, but hasn’t quite lived up to its own hype. With so much talent at their disposal, a cast of fantastic actors, the budget to recreate terrifying mutts and epic battle sequences, a rock-solid narrative to work from, and an army of fans ready to be enraptured, Mockingjay Part 2 disappointingly falls short of its own potential.

Sarah Griffin

15A
122 minutes (See IFCO for details)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is released 20th November 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – Official Website

 

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

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DIR: Francis Lawrence  WRI: Peter Craig, Danny Strong  PRO: Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik • DOP: Jo Willems  ED: Alan Edward Bell, Mark Yoshikawa •  MUS: James Newton Howard  CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 follows on from the previous two offerings and follows the now standard tease of splitting the final instalment of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of novels into two separate movies. In Catching Fire, we witnessed Katniss’ disruption of the Quarter Qwell games and subsequent ‘rescue’. The film opens with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) still in recovery after her ordeal, struggling to come to terms with those who were left behind.  We learn about the destruction The Capitol has waged on all of the Districts – most notably Katniss’ own District 12.

 

This instalment is essentially a set-up for the final film. Whilst there are some intense action sequences, this film is more concerned with character development as we see Katniss slowly come to terms with her new status as a figurehead for the rebellion. Meanwhile, Liam Hemsworth’s Gale has wasted no time in becoming an action hero which leaves him just enough spare time to still wonder if his unfortunate love triangle will ever be disbanded.

 

Readers of the trilogy will wonder why it was necessary to split the final book into two movies, and cinemagoers will undoubtedly feel the same. This movie is, in-essence, a 123-minute trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two as it spends a great deal of time getting us up to speed with our protagonists and accustomed to new characters whilst building toward the film’s only true reveal which is certain to have fans lining up to see the final instalment.

 

Katniss’ trademark fierceness is somewhat lost here – she becomes a Shadow-Katniss as she struggles with having left Peeta behind. I can’t really judge her considering a recent quiz assured me that I would last no more than a day in the Hunger Games, but it is disappointing to not see the full force of such a well-loved character.

 

Jennifer Lawrence might be the world’s sweetheart at the moment, but it is Josh Hutcherson’s performance as Peeta, who has been captured and taken to the Capitol, which takes precedence here. Despite only appearing briefly he is utterly changed and his character takes on a multitude of nuances, which will endear him to audiences. There is an over-reliance on bonding moments between characters that have already had two movies to become close.  Welcome changes from the books were the additional scenes featuring Effie Trinket who is so effortlessly portrayed by Elizabeth Banks.

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is certainly not the strongest of the franchise but sets up the finale perfectly and ends at a point which will have both fans and newcomers to the series crying out for more.

 Ciara O’Brien

 

12A (See IFCO for details)

122 minutes

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is released 21st November 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: The Hunger Games

Franchise Alert!

DIR: Gary Ross • WRI: Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray • PRO: Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik • DOP: Tom Stern • ED: Stephen Mirrione, Juliette Welfling • DES: Philip Messina • Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks

Fans of Suzanne Collins’ hugely successfully series of books have been on the defensive since this adaptation is being referred to as ‘Twilight meets The Running Man‘, whereas those previously unaware of the tween-lit hits are seeing this movie as little more than “Battle Royale with all the violence taken out, and replaced with a love story.” As it turns out, both descriptions are vaguely accurate, but in no way is that necessarily a bad thing.

Katniss Everdeen (a perfectly cast Jennifer Lawrence) is living in the coal-mining town of District 12, one of the poorer districts of a Panem, a futuristic, post-war America. In order to keep the population in line, every year the President (Donald Sutherland) organises The Hunger Games, where a boy and girl aged between 12 and 18 are picked at random from each district, and all 24 teens are placed into a huge arena to hunt and kill each other on live television. When her frail younger sister is picked, Katniss volunteers to take her place, and heads off to the Capital with fellow District 12-er Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).

From here Katniss and Peeta are primped and prepped for The Hunger Games by a host of well-known actors (Woody Harrelson, Wes Bentley, Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz and a scene-stealing Elizabeth Banks), all of whom help bring weight or levity when and where required. Then it’s off to the arena, and all hell breaks loose…

The worrying 12A rating had some folk concerned that the pretty-darn-violent novel would be toned down some, and while it never goes for OTT gore, there are more than enough stabbings, bludgeonings, poisonings, impalings and neck-snappings to put those worries to rest. Intensity is the name of the game here, with director Gary Ross going all Paul Greengrass with shaky, handheld camera-work getting up close and personal with every fight scene. And when the film slows down to take an emotional beat, those are perfectly handled too, with one scene in particular that should have the entire audience wiping away a tear.

As an adaptation, the movie is a massive success, thanks its fantastic cast and amazing production design, as well as Oscar®-worthy make-up and costume designs, and while there are some omissions and alterations from the novel, it’s nothing that will ruin the experience. But as a stand-alone movie, it does have some minor problems. While it doesn’t feel as long as its epic 142-minute running time, it is a movie that has A LOT of story to tell, which can sometimes bog the tempo down a little bit. Also, side-lining someone as talented as Toby Jones and someone as handsome as Liam Hemsworth into virtually non-existing roles seems like something of a waste. But these are minor niggles when compared to the triumph of setting up such a complicated universe so well, and leaving the audience wanting more, which they’ll get when sequel Catching Fire hits cinemas in November 2013.

Rory Cashin

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
The Hunger Games is released on 23rd March 2012

 

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Triangle

Triangle

DIR/WRI: Christopher Smith • PRO: Julie Baines, Chris Brown, Jason Newmark • DOP: Robert Humphreys • ED: Stuart Gazzard • DES: Melinda Doring • CAST: Melissa George, Liam Hemsworth, Emma Lung, Rachel Carpani

A group of friends set sail off the coast of Florida, presumably towards the Bermuda Triangle, though this is never mentioned. All seems well except for Jess (George), who shows up haunted and exhausted. She is vague when asked about the whereabouts of her son and despite her best efforts is having trouble socialising. Soon, they have found themselves victim to a storm, leaving them shipwrecked. Eventually a ship arrives and they board it, expecting salvation but receiving a mess of time loops, murder and identity crises.

As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that despite how messy the plot seems, the script has been written with great care and thought. As each twist unfurls, it nicely fits into the questions that have previously been set up. As is often the case with time loop stories, Triangle seems unsure of how to end itself. However, it does manage to bring about a decent denouement, though the final scenes don’t quite explain themselves as nicely as it could have.

The film’s weakness lies in its tired premise. It is decidedly similar in design and tone to a particular episode of The X Files (incidentally called Triangle) and feels like an episode of The Twilight Zone except it’s dragged out for an extra hour, or the entire plot of Lost squeezed into a movie. There’s nothing cinematic here, therefore nothing to justify another time loop story making its way to the public. The amateurish CGI doesn’t help either!

Having said that, the film does entertain and it maintains a nice level of paranoia. Melissa George’s performance is consistently cold and distracted, always keeping the audience wondering what had happened before her arrival on the boat. As the third act begins and everything begins to make sense, Jess’s primal maternal urges begin to make sense and thus the film becomes an insightful psychological thriller.

This is by no means an original story, nor is it the most satisfying, but it is a decent thriller and credit must be given for the careful script, the melancholy tone and the snappy pacing. It’s not one for repeated viewing, but if you’re a fan of mind games, this is actually rather satisfying.

Charlene Lydon
(See biog here)

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Triangle
is released on 16th Oct 2009
Triangle – Official Website

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