Classic Movie Reviews are occasional posts in which I review a movie from the past. It might have to do with a movie coming out that week or just a personal favorite of mine. These reviews may contain spoilers.
The highly popular Hunger Games franchise is finally and mercifully coming to a close this Friday. Because of that, I’m taking a look at the previous 3 movies. I know a ton of people love these movies, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why. As always with the franchise reviews, these will be shorter than normal reviews. If you want to hear a more in depth discussion on these movies, it was the topic of our podcast last week. Check that out here.
Disclaimer: No, I have not read the books. I watch movies. A movie franchise should stand alone from whatever book franchise it’s based on. I read the Harry Potter books and never found myself defending the movies based on things I found in the book. It shouldn’t and doesn’t matter. Rant over.
The Hunger Games
The movie that kicks off the franchise also happens to be the worst movie of the bunch. Let’s just start off with the couple things I did actually like. The Hunger Games themselves, once we finally get to them, are pretty cool and entertaining to watch, as are some of the training sequences. I also enjoyed the idea of Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) sacrificing herself for her sister (although I didn’t care as much as I should have because the characters aren’t developed enough). Woody Harrelson’s character serves as some great comic relief that I really enjoyed. The Hunger Games themselves are also fairly entertaining once they finally get to them. That’s about it on things I liked. I’ll keep my negatives as brief as I can because I could go on all day. Let’s talk about this plot for a second. There are more “plot conveniences” than I’ve ever seen in any movie. There’s the fact that the first person to die in front of Katniss has her weapon of choice (bow and arrows), the fact that the birds will mimic sounds, the fact that all the friends she makes are killed by someone else so she doesn’t have to do it, the fact that they allow two winners so her and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) can both survive, etc. etc. etc. It’s insane and really took me out of the movie. This future world also never really sets any rules for itself and what can be done in it which bothers me. It seems to just make stuff up as it goes along. All of the characters are massively underdeveloped to the point where I can’t even remember most of their names. Those who I did know, I didn’t care about. Some of that probably comes from the acting. Josh Hutcherson is abysmal and Jennifer Lawrence isn’t much better. I know she is a good actress from other things she is in but she just isn’t in this movie. She has a blank expression on her face the entire movie and she’s boring to watch. I also don’t buy their whole relationship at all. It’s forced and feels really fake. More on that later.
Alright I’ve killed this one enough I think. I don’t enjoy it at all and probably won’t watch it again (I’ve already seen it 3 times and that’s way too many). The Hunger Games gets a 2/5.
The second installment has a lot of the same problems the first one has, but is a much more enjoyable movie and is my favorite of the 3 (even though that’s not saying much). There was a lot more to like in this movie upon rewatching it. My favorite part of this movie is the growing resistance element. In all the Districts Katniss goes through, you get little hints of it. That was really interesting to me and I wish the movie focused a bit more on it. It also hints that Katniss is suffering from some sort of PTSD, which you would expect from someone who just had to kill and watch kids be killed. It’s an interesting element, but like so many other things in these movies, it’s underdeveloped and just kind of disappears from the plot. Despite Lawrence and Hutcherson (among others) still being terrible, I really liked Woody Harrelson again and newcomer Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is great in everything he does. The Hunger Games themselves are way more interesting than in the first film, due to the fact that there is this cool “battling the elements” feature to it. The movie still has a ton of flaws though. Like I said a bunch follow from the first movie (those fire effects are still awful) and there are some new ones as well. For example, there a bunch of allies that Katniss has in the Hunger Games arena that we don’t know the motivation for. It hints at Woody Harrelson’s character having something to do with it, but I wish they would have explored that more. Jennifer Lawrence also randomly gets more arrows throughout the movie. Seriously, she has more of those things than Legolas did in Lord of the Rings. Back to the relationship between Katniss and Pita, we find out that it felt fake in the first movie because it was fake. Which would be fine if the movie didn’t change it’s mind and decide it wasn’t fake after all. So now we are stuck with this love story that I didn’t buy and don’t care about at all. All of this while Katniss clearly also has feelings for Thor’s brother who is a way more interesting character than Peeta, yet is hardly ever seen.
Overall, there’s more to like about this one than the first one. I’ll get this movie over my “good movie threshold” and give it a 3.25/5.
Mockingjay: Part 1
Going into this movie, I thought it could be the best of the three. It was finally going to focus on the rebellion aspect that was the best part of the previous movies. But boy does this movie draaaaaaaaag. This clearly did not need to be split into two parts. There are about 30 minutes in here that are actually good. The rest is just drawn out clutter to fill in the movie. This movie basically takes the interesting parts out of the first two movies, then takes out the actual Hunger Games and takes its place with boring filler material. While I do like some things about it, there are parts of this movie that make no sense. I’ll give a perfect example. There’s a scene that shows one of the Districts rebelling. This district is apparently full of lumberjackers. They go off into the woods with a contingent of Capital soldiers who they clearly outnumber. Their grand plan is to run in the opposite direction of these soldiers, who take out about half of them. They then somehow climb trees and set off an explosion. Wait a second; back that up. Where did they get explosives? And if they are being watched so closely, how and when did the plant them? It’s total nonsense and the movie is filled with equally bad moments. I do like the raid scene at the end. It was the best part of the movie and finally gave us a chance to see Thor’s brother actually do something other than be a small part at the beginning and end of the movies. I just can’t stand this love triangle going on between him, Katniss, and Peeta. None of it makes sense and I don’t buy it at all. I was hoping that Thor’s brother and Peeta would both die and force Katniss to take on the Capital for revenge. That would be way more interesting, albeit more dark. Speaking of Katniss, I hated her in this movie more so than the other two. She is a great heroine, in my opinion. She’s smart, beautiful, loyal, and kicks butt. But she has played this “reluctant hero” thing up way too long. Three movies in now, it really is time to step up and do what you need to do.
Anyway, there’s some things to like about this movie, but not many. It drags on and is boring for a majority of it. It had potential but Mockingjay Part 1 gets a 2.5/5.
Here’s to hoping Part 2 can be better than the films before it.
Alright, I know a ton of you disagree with me. Sound off in the comments and let me know why I’m wrong.