A citizen movement committed to restoring Vermont to an independent republic, free to pursue life, liberty and happiness unimpeded by the demands of an imperial, corrupt and disintegrating United States.
How bad is Hollywood’s final (fourth!) installment of “Hunger Games”? So bad. Bad to the Bone. Uber-bad. The kind of bad that warrants the phrase “epic fail,” a “bad” so spectacular that this film will serve as a cautionary tale for any future directors thinking about carving up a book trilogy into four filmic pieces (this means you, Peter “The Hobbit” Jackson!) We’ve written about the “Hunger Games” series subversive and revolutionary potential here. This last film is a completely different animal, alas.
Let me be clear. Ever since Waitsfield elementary school teacher Dan Greenleaf introduced me to Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” books many years ago, I have felt a strange attraction to the story. Collins’ dystopian YA fiction posits a world in the not-to-distant-future where the Luxe City of Panem, led by the evil President Snow, sucks outlying impoverished districts dry, while keeping them divided through the annual televised spectacle of their district dweller kids butchering each other in front of a televised audience. Like all good dystopian fiction, the ”Hunger Games” books contain connex to our present reality, and the creation of the sensitive, powerful, courageous rebel/heroine Katniss Everdeen proved a literary triumph for Collins, spawning a devoted global following of readers who reveled in a story featuring a strong female protagonist not defined by the men that inhabit her world, a young woman willing to challenge the Status Quo at significant risk to herself and everyone she loves. Hollywood’s casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen also proved an astute call – and the first three films found favor with global audiences who saw in Lawrence a believable Katniss.
So what went wrong with “Mocking Jay, Part 2? Five BIG problems.
Nothing Happens. This film’s plot can be summarized in 1 sentence. “Katniss and her somber band of rebels defeat Snow and live happily ever after.” Yes, that is a spoiler. Read the book. See first paragraph, above. Bad.
No One Acts. The words “one dimensional” and “wooden” comes to mind here. In fact, we can summarize each character’s contribution to the film with a single word. Katniss/Lawrence ponders. Snow/Donald Sutherland sneers. Gale/Liam Hemsworth pouts. Effie Trinket/Elizabeth Banks simpers. Haymitch/Woody Harrelson lurks. Julianne Moore/Alma Coin plots. And not a single actor in the film makes us care a whit about anyone or anything. Double bad.
CGI Rules. This is a serious problem in all Hollywood action movies these days. When computers outperform a movie’s plot arc, character development and thematic elements, we are all in deep trouble at the multiplex. And even the CGI stuff is lame here – some fake-looking explosions, flying space ships, and an action sequence shot in a sewer that looked like a wanna-be “Walking Dead” homage. Bad bad bad.
The Script Stinks. I was in a completely full theater for this film on opening night with the die hards, and the audience literally laughed out loud several times throughout the movie, listening to the absurd lines being delivered from the mouths of otherwise reasonably good actors. Special mention? The love triangle between Peeta, Gale, and Katniss – I remember middle school dances less clumsy and awkward than this unfortunately handled ménage a trois. Bad times 4.
The Ending. Oh, the ending! I felt like weeping openly, and then wiping my nose on whomever wrote the finale to this script. Never in Hollywood history has a movie’s finish felt so grotesquely contrived, decanting all meaning and purpose from the entire story that has come before. In a nutshell? Take Hollywood’s most remarkable and courageous action heroine/rebel, hand her to the man who is the very symbol of imperial abuse, injustice and oppression, give them two children, and stick her on a lush, green, sun-dappled hillside in a house frock, where she murmurs inanities to her newborn babe for the benefit of a listening audience. Talk about “disempowering.” Someone fetch a bow and a quiver of arrows and put the projector out of its misery. Hurry.
My advice? Skip this film. Watch the trailer, and then go back and read the books. “May the odds be ever in your favor.”