Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Hunger Games 3: Fizzling Out

I cannot apologize enough for lack of new posts, there will be a Freelancin' next week with more apologies to come.  Until then, posts will be happening on a regular schedule, I promise.

It's been a few years since "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" introduced Hollywood to the innovative concept of fractional adaptations.  Why make one movie when you can make two out of the same book?  Thus opening the door to such incomplete half films like the "Twilight: Breaking Dawn duology", and the incomplete third of films as the "Hobbit franchise".  One thing you might recognize amongst this crowd is that almost none of them actually constitute a  good movie*.  On the one hand, it works out for the fans, who get another trip to the movies to see their favorite books on the big screen.  On the other hand, it works out for the studios, who get to horde another obscene pile of bullion for their bank vaults.  However on the mutant freakish third hand of this rhetorical organism, everybody else has to suffer through awkward plodding films trying their best to justify their half-formed existence, such as "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1".

"Mockingjay Part 1" does at least attempt a new bold direction for this franchise.  There are no Hunger Games in "The Hunger Games 3".  Rather the class warfare subtext of this dystopia has finally boiled over into a full-fledged civil war.  Our beautiful heroine, Katniss Everdeen (played by the future ex-Mrs. Highwind, Jennifer Lawrence) has been locked away within the secret underground fortress of the secret District 13, where the rebels plan to use her in a propaganda war against the Capitol.  Her partner in the Hunger Games, Peeta Mellark (played by the perpetually underwhelming Josh Hutcherson) is a prisoner of the Evil Empire, and is being used as their television talk show puppet.

The idea was for "Part 1" of this Mockingjay duet to be a slower more character-driven experience, with Catnip developing into a hero.  And discovering which of the two handsome angles of the mandatory young adult love triangle to fall in love with.  Unfortunately, while they got the "slow" part down, you will not get much in terms of character.  Catnip Everclear has never been a very exciting lead, and she is at her worst when she has to spend an entire movie in a gray bunker with seemingly nothing to do but watch events go by around her.  The rest of the Hunger Games cast hangs story equally ignored by an aimless script.  Catnip seems disconnected to everybody around her, as the script can neither build her relationship with hunky Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) or with her little sister or with anybody at all.  "Hunger Games 3" is a movie that not only doesn't have action, it really doesn't have anything.

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" was a brilliant movie that nicely added to the stakes of the original.  It introduced fun and exciting characters, and had a creative unexpected twist ending.  That film played to the greatest strengths of the franchise:   making the titular Hunger Games more dangerous than ever, staging most of the movie in the Capitol with the fun foppish upper class people and their clown costumes.  "The Hunger Games 3" does all it can to ignore every strength of this franchise by putting all the narrative weight on it's greatest weaknesses.  All the clowns are gone, there's more gray steel bunkers in this movie than "Downfall", and we've lost the central action battle entirely.  The Hunger Games made for a wonderful strategic war where you never knew who you could quite trust.  Now the battle lines are set, and the only questions left are the least interesting ones.

In order to enjoy "Mockingjay Part 1" you will have to be fully invested in the novels' central characters and romantic underlining.  The tension this time does not lie in whether Catnip will survive the reality show gladiator combat arena.  Catnip is entirely safe in a cave for this entire movie - even to the point of missing out on the final action climax (as much of one as you can say there is).  There is a lot built out of mass media personas and manipulating the audience.  That has always been a juicy subtext for this franchise, unfortunately watered down by Hollywood blandness and the incomprehensibly dumb decision to not allow Paul Verhoeven to direct even one of these Hunger Games films.  No, that's all immaterial, Catnip gives a token protest but almost immediately becomes the propaganda tool that the resistance wants out of her for real.  The real driving question in this movie is Peeta.

If you don't care about Josh Hutcherson, this won't be the movie for you.  Which means, it's the movie for nobody.
Catnip has little to do here but pine after Peeta who is now being tortured by evil Donald Sutherland (who somehow is never quite hammy enough for his villain role).  Peeta spends most of his time being interviewed for the clown caste reassuring them of their government's morality.  As for our heroine, she ignoreds every other human being around her to wait for Peeta's return.  That makes this movie crushingly boring because Catnip is stuck with people she doesn't care about.  Ultimately the question of whether Katniss really loved Peeta and his ridiculous pentagon-shaped face has been answered.  They've never had on-screen chemistry, so it would have been far more clever for it all to be an act in order to secure survival.  But love stories are just as marketable in the real world as they are in this land of PanAm**.  So Catnip x Peeta is confirmed, enjoy it teenaged girls.

As for Liam Hemsworth's part of the love triangle... he mostly sits to the side being ignored by everybody, never once actually answering the question of why he's in these movies.

I'd like to write a review of a biting subversive film that could really introduce it's audience to the dangers of media, the manipulation of a storyline, and the lies people have to tell to protect themselves and those around them.  I mean, I have written that review, it was for "Gone Girl", but it would be fun to write that review again = especially for a movie that could offer an important political lesson to a younger generation.  In today's world everything is media, everybody has their own channel, their own brand, their own persona, and little cult with Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or Youtube subscribers.  We're all playing a huge act to our friends and families, on some level.  Even this review is being written by the Blue Highwind character, not the "real" Eric Fuchs, if such a person exists***.

The Hunger Games could be an incredible franchise really digging into the deeper ramifications of that cultural shift, with a sympathetic protagonist being dragged along for the constructed narrative.  Yet every time this franchise insists on having it's cake and eating it too.  Catnip plays the love interest for Peeta - but it's not really an act, she is in love with him.  She plays the hero of the revolution - but she really is the badass hero of the revolution.  Where is the conflict then?

I like the sexy battle armor though.
Luckily "The Hunger Games 3" inevitably has to be the worst part of this franchise.  It is the movie that most relies upon Catnip and Peeta, whose relationship has been the weight that has dragged these movies down from the beginning.  Which is interesting because the two characters spend one scene together.  But even if you are the biggest Hunger Games fan in the world, you have to admit there is not enough plot here for two hours.  I don't care how pretty you find Jennifer Lawrence, she is not going to keep you compelled while she sits around moping in a room.  Next movie is going to have the big stupid war finale we needed in this movie in order to justify all the slow piece moving.  So we have yet another victim to Hollywood's need to shake more change out of our wallets with unnecessary sequels.

However, now that I think about it...  this is starting to feel familiar.  Bloated cast?  Rambling plotless movie where nothing happens?  Complete inability to stage small character moments?  Tepid love triangle?  Uninspiring protagonist with no actual agency in the story yet every character obsesses over?  This is a Twilight movie!  THEY'RE BACK!!


* To this very day the Deathly Hallows movies are the best of the lot, with Part 1 still featuring what I believe to be the very best scene of the entire Harry Potter Octology (tortured word, I know):  Harry and Hermione dancing in the cabin alone.  It was a pretty character building moment showing that these two people truly care for each other, and can take the time out of a horrible situation to have a small loving moment of fun.  You remember all the years they've shared, and everything they've meat to each other.  It was incredible filmmaking.

You won't find anything like that in "Hunger Games 3".

** No, I don't know why they named the future evil empire after a failed airline.

** I have no idea myself at this point.


  1. Glad to have you back writing these blog posts. Just know that your work here is appreciated.

  2. It's great to see you writing again!

    I actually really liked this movie but I am a big fan of the novels so that's perhaps why. Mockingjay was the weakest of the written trilogy and I thought the film was a huge improvement over the book. Really excited for the next one.

  3. Blue! Good to have you back, it has been too long man, too long. Thought you were sick or something but you must have been busy with work and then busy in the holidays.

    I'm yet to see any hunger games' movies, but if I do I will brace myself to watch them all and then read the books since they are probably better. Though to be honest your reviews kind of make want to just read the books and ignore the movies. What's your advice?


  4. YOU'RE BACK, BLUE! I was just thinking about you earlier today. Glad to see you're alive!

    I'm considering watching Mockingjay 1 just to see how the plot ends. I don't care about the books.

  5. Yippie your back, I knew you weren't completely gone based on your twitter feed, but its still nice to know your blogging again.

    As for the hunger games , I have only seen the first movie and read all the books. What I liked about the books, that the movies don't do properly, is that in the books Katniss is a manipulative bitch .
    That sounds like a bad thing, but I love her because of that, its so rare to see a character in a teens book like this who is willing to do anything to survive.

    Still glad to have you back.
    Sword Of Primus
    P.S Were you able to catch the last two episodes of Hellsing Ultimate and if so would you consider a full review of it now?

  6. Good to see you back! I enjoyed this movie, but it's always both enlightening and interesting to read your viewpoints.