By James Hancock November 19th, 2015
We’ve reached the end of the global phenomenon of The Hunger Games with the release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, a movie that I hope will please the hardcore fans to the same degree that it kept me at a distance. I love nothing more than the raw fanaticism exhibited by fans of Star Wars, Harry Potter, Marvel, James Bond or whatever mega franchise people choose to get emotionally invested in. This just happens not to be a franchise that I follow religiously. I read the first book shortly after it came out, realized it wasn’t for me, and would have been happy to leave the series alone so that the maniacs could enjoy their movies in peace, but last year I had to get caught up on the films in order to participate in a podcast discussing The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. I thought the first Mockingjay was incredibly disappointing but was willing to listen to the many hardcore fans who assured me that due to the third book in the series being divided into two parts, all the good stuff was being saved for the last film. In my ignorance, I believed them and obediently went to see the latest film this evening. I’m telling you all this extraneous information so that you won’t confuse my criticisms as coming from an expert on the franchise nor from a disappointed fan, but rather from the vantage point of an outsider that never really got into the series. For the record, I love the fact that young readers are being thrilled by a story that teaches a healthy skepticism of propaganda and authority and I understand why so many kids look up to the character of Katniss Everdeen. My goal with this review is not to try and dissuade anyone from their love of the character but rather underline a few areas that made these movies, the last one in particular, incredibly weak from my bitter, jaded perspective.
I was completely bewildered by tonight’s screening. The theater was packed with people who clearly love and adore these movies yet they repeatedly laughed at the cringe-inducing dialogue and the sloppy disorganized plot that left Katniss looking like a confused bystander in her own story. The final scene after the dismally anti-climactic 3rd Act had people howling and jeering at the sight of Peeta and Katniss playing with their kids, a scene that was clearly supposed to have a profound emotional impact. Perhaps laughing at the ridiculous side of these movies is part of the fun for the fans, it would not be the first time we’ve seen that kind of pop culture phenomenon, but the love of these movies by the fans typically seems so sincere that my confusion only led to total bafflement by the end of the movie. I was laughing as well but only at my own stupidity for subjecting myself to the most celibate, asexual love triangle ever conceived by a human being, one that we’re forced to endure as it unfolds like a train wreck in slow motion between the characters played by Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson. Had these characters been 11 or 12 years old, perhaps I could have accepted their exchanges, but these actors are in their mid-twenties. Jennifer Lawrence is one of the sexiest and most talented actresses of her generation, and I just can’t suspend my disbelief as she indulges in clumsy teenage sexual confusion about kissing boys with a guy who used to date Miley Cyrus.
This movie has to be one of the biggest wastes of extraordinary acting talent ever committed to the screen. The cast is unbelievably good including the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Stanley Tuccci, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Jeffrey Wright, Natalie Dormer and, of course, Jennifer Lawrence, who I’m completely obsessed with from her roles in David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and American Hustle (2013) as well as her show-stealing performance as Mystique in Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). I’m sure everyone was well paid and that they had fun making these movies, but if you have all these incredible performers already on the payroll, why not give them something interesting to do? Considering how little material they gave Jennifer Lawrence to work with, Katniss could just have easily been played by a cardboard cut-out of Jennifer Lawrence in her Mockingjay outfit. So it is safe to say I’m not a fan. I guess the reason I am raving like this is that I feel like with all these mega franchises, many of which I follow enthusiastically, I never want the powers-that-be behind them to feel as if they can simply phone in these movies and assume that the fans will go no matter what. This kind of genre entertainment has for the most part improved by leaps and bounds from the time of my childhood where we had no choice but to watch a movie like Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) because there were no other options of any kind. If we want this geek revolution of the last decade to continue unabated, we have to be brutally honest when the movies come up short and I would like to believe that somewhere in the back of their minds even the most devoted Hunger Games fans know that they deserve better than what I saw tonight.
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