Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (2015)

mockingjay2
Image rights belong to Lionsgate and Color Force

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – Film Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Jeffrey Wright, Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields.

Director: Francis Lawrence

Synopsis: The war in Panem reaches its climax, as Katniss and her team, along with all of the districts of Panem prepare to launch a full out assault on the Capitol and President Snow, and to bring an end to tyranny that has plagued them for over 75 years.

Review: Another year, and another curtain falls for the (possible) last time an incredibly popular franchise, The Hunger Games. While many may feel this should have happened twelve months ago after the first part of Mockingjay, which while solid left fans a little bit wanting, as there was an aching desire for a lot more in the way of action. This closing instalment does bring said action, in considerable quantities. Yet it’s not all plain sailing, although for the most part, the odds are in the favour of this franchise.

Picking up where we left off, Katniss despite almost being murdered at the end of the last film, is preparing for her long awaited attack on the Capitol to hunt and kill President Snow. Very little time is wasted as the assembled crew battle their way into Panem and have to negotiate some sinister traps. Like in Catching Fire, director Francis Lawrence helms the action sequences extremely well and on the whole they do provide some exciting and nervy scenes as the team negotiate the mire that is the Capitol’s deserted and almost wasteland like streets. Yet for all the intense drama, there are a number of really impactful moments that hit hard in the book. Yet when put on the big screen, they are not as nearly as emotional or hard hitting as they should have been. We’ve spent three films with some of these characters, the emotional pay off should amount to more than it does.

Being the Oscar winner she is, a good Jennifer Lawrence performance is almost a given, and of course she’s as excellent as she has been right throughout the franchise’s beginnings. She clearly is carrying that deep trauma that has been effecting her by the events of the first three films, but at the same time she maintains that steely determination to carry out her goal “to make Snow pay for what he’s done.” Yet for Lawrence’s brilliance, the rest of the cast are not given much of a platform to shine, and some do get lost in the sea of the makeshift games of the Capitol. The cast is extensive with plenty of considerable talent in there from some of Hollywood’s biggest names, but not many show their quality, and in those rare moments that they do, it is fleeting, gone before it had a chance to really show itself.

You can tell that the film-makers were looking to honour the book in every way they can, and full credit for them for attempting that. However this extreme loyalty to the book means that the script unfortunately does suffer in places, with some very slow moments that drag on for longer than they need to. This gives weight to those who argued that the film should never have been split into two parts, and on the evidence of this final film, they may have a point. It’s not the fiery and astounding conclusion that some may have hoped for. However, there is still plenty here for hardcore fans to enjoy. The odds have been in their favour from the franchise’s beginning and it ends the series on a satisfying note.

An improvement on the first part, Part 2 delivers the action the fans were hoping to see, but there are shades of the problems that bogged down Part 1, while some of the important events do not have that emotional punch that they ought to.

b

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014)

Mockingjay
Image rights belong to Lionsgate and Color Force

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – Film Review 

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Jeffrey Wright, Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields.

Director: Francis Lawrence

Synopsis:  Following her rescue from the Hunger Games arena, Katniss finds herself in the unknown District 13, where she has to decide if she wants to take a stand against the Capitol, and become the Mockingjay and the symbol of hope…

Review: One inevitable fact of life is that when movies adapted from a series of books are adapted for the big screen, the last book is going to be split up into two movies. Harry Potter and Twilight did it, and Divergent will also follow suit. While it may be hard to look at this decision as anything more than a money related one, if the movies themselves deliver enough content to leave the viewer satisfied, then all is right with the world. With this first part, it feels like an elongated starter before we reach the excitement of the main course.

With Katniss being rescued from the 75th Hunger Games and arriving in the unknown District 13,  the initial focus is on her dealing with the events of the last movie. Her home has been destroyed, her best friend captured, and having to decide whether or not to become the Mockingjay, the leader who will take down the evil Capitol and the cold President Snow (no pun intended.) The film focuses on her psychological struggles, dealing with everything she’s been through and at the same time see the two sides using propaganda to try and rally people to their cause with her being the key piece in the puzzle for the rebellion. The propaganda does provide some compelling viewing with a particularly emotive and powerful scene at a lake, but there is a desire to get to the action scenes that you know are brewing.

The film is not devoid of action, and there are some great scenes to get the heart pumping, but they are over before they have had a chance to really get going. The main focus of the film is on the propaganda and the political speeches and in that we get a new angle on the story that we have not seen before. The Games themselves are now old news,  the brewing war between the Capitol and the Districts is the bigger picture of the story, and those who have read the books know what is coming. This part could have very easily fallen flat due to the surplus in action but it is held up by the scheming and the propaganda which is riveting to see. On top of this, it provides a beautiful piece of cinema with a song performed by Katniss herself, which is a nice companion piece to the film’s excellent soundtrack.

Jennifer Lawrence, is once again the driving force of the film. The Oscar winner shows the horrible Katniss struggles and her determination to save her family in the face of sheer horror and desolation make for some gripping moments. The audience has grown with her over these last two movies and she’s the one you really care about. With the majority of the rest of the characters, there is not the same level of connection and in that some of the characters do feel expendable. The one new character that stands out is Julianne Moore as President Alma Coin. As the charismatic leader of District 13, it is her task to rally the rebels and prepare for war, and she does this with great aplomb.  Of course the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman remains on form as former Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee, as he did throughout his illustrious career. The acting on the whole remains solid from everyone else, but with all the build up and the political subtext we have, there is just not enough action to leave the viewer satisfied.

A step down from the highs of Catching Fire but there is enough in this instalment of this popular franchise to keep your attention. With Lawrence remaining as solid as ever in her role as Katniss, the odds are definitely in our favour for an action packed conclusion to this franchise.

b

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

All image rights belong to Lionsgate
Image is property of Lionsgate

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Film Review 

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence,  Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Claflin

Director: Francis Lawrence

Synopsis: Katniss has sparked rebellion in the twelve districts of Panem and she has become the target by the ruthless Capitol. As rebellion is brewing, the Capitol prepares for the 75th Hunger Games, also known as the Third Quarter Quell, and one that will change Katniss’s life forever…

Review: A bigger and better adventure than the first film of what already has the makings of a very successful franchise.  A franchise that is quite simply not a plain rip off of Battle Royale as some people would have you believe.

The opening begins with the consequences of Katniss and Peeta’s open defiance against the Capitol following their victory in the previous film. Katniss in particular feels the full wrath of the cold President Snow (Donald Sutherland) who threatens Katniss with the deaths of all those she holds dear unless she cools the brewing rebellion that is gaining momentum throughout the nation’s twelve districts. Katniss is seen as the symbol of rebellion and Snow desperately wants to kill her to crush the rebellion. Yet Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) suggests that she be brought down to the level of the Capitol and the symbol of hope that she has become will be eradicated. Sutherland takes his performance form the first film up a gear and he definitely comes into his own as the cold and cruel leader of Panem.

Jennifer Lawrence rose to super stardom following her performance as the film’s star heroine in last year’s film. Following on from this, the 23 year old has got bigger and now has on Oscar for her role in Silver Linings Playbook. The only way is up for her and her performance as the film’s lead character was again fantastic. A strong and powerful female heroine is rare in films these days but with Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, she gives us the strong female lead that has helped define this franchise and dare I say, helps bring a positive image of women in action movies and not the sulking and needy women that has come from franchises of the past (*cough* Twilight *cough) The returning cast are also on form again with Stanley Tucci as the bubbly Casear Flickman and Elizabeth Banks as the ever colourful and this time much more emotional Effie Trinket.  Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson also reprise their roles to great effect. Among the new members of the cast, Sam Claflin is the most noteworthy as Finnick Odair. Yet the likes of Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Wiress (Amanda Plummer), Mags (Lynn Cohen) and Johanna (Jena Malone) also make strong impressions.

Under a new director, Francis Lawrence who is not a relation of Jennifer, the film’s action scenes definitely improve and the frustrating shaky cam has been done away with. This film does focus a lot more on some of the crucial elements that are within the books and as the content of this film is considerably darker than its predecessor. A notable example of this is the significance of the Mockingjay pin that went completely amiss in the first film. The director does a great job in bringing those elements from Collins’ novel to the big screen and all in all it is pulled off really well with some exciting and pulsating  scenes especially when we get to the arena which again is done extremely well.

Under Lawrence’s direction, this franchise is in good hands and the final two parts of the franchise have got the potential to be even better than the first two. With the third biggest opening in the UK for 2013, it seems the UK public continue to want the odds to be in their favour. This film definitely delivers what the hordes of passionate Hunger Games fans wanted to see.  It was exciting, dark and was all round perfectly executed. It was  much more loyal to the book  than the first film. While it was not completely loyal, it was still very enjoyable and I eagerly await the next instalment of this franchise.

Upping the stakes as a sequel should, Catching Fire  delivers much more compelling action with a really solid story that ensures the odds are very much in this franchise’s favour.

a

 

Posted in Film Review

The Hunger Games (2012)

All image rights belong to Lionsgate and Color Force
Image is property of Lionsgate and Color Force

The Hunger Games – Film Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

Director: Gary Ross

Synopsis: In the aftermath of a rebellion, a nation forces, known as “tributes”. The tributes are then trained and forced to fight to the death in a tournament known as the Hunger Games until there is only one person standing.

Review: A solid film that sets the benchmark for what could be an exciting quartet of films. Prior to its release, this film had garnered a massive amount of buzz and excitement in the wake of the best-selling novels from Collins. The first film of the series was always going to be crucial to the future success of the franchise, and while the film does have its problems; it is nevertheless an exciting first chapter that hits the ground running and will leave the viewers wanting more. With Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, the film offers a likeable, confident and strong female protagonist, a rare feature for a big budget Hollywood blockbuster. She is a character that the audience immediately sympathise with due to the horrific poverty that she and her family have to endure as their district; district twelve is one of the poorest districts. She takes the place of her sister Prim (Willow Shields) by volunteering in the Hunger Games, alongside Peeta Mellark, a baker’s boy who Katniss has some history with. Along with the two tributes from district twelve, all the tributes train for several days before being sent into battle in the Hunger Games until only one victor remains.

Lawrence, on the back of her Oscar nominated success from Winter’s Bone, delivers a very strong lead performance. She is brave, strong willed, determined and a powerful warrior. At the same time she shows compassion and emotion when she needs to. While the film does breeze over some important elements of the story from Collins’ work, in particular the Mockingjay pin, it does offer up some exciting moments. Before the action in the arena kicks off, Katniss gives some memorable moments including the Tributes Parade and the showing of her “Girl on Fire” dress while during her pre-Games interview by Caesar Flickerman. (Stanley Tucci) However, this is all a prelude to the Hunger Games itself.

Right from the beginning of the tournament the action is exciting stuff. Yet it does slow down at various points which does enable some important character development, namely between Katniss and Peeta as they grow closer together and begin to form a strong relationship. Despite this, the action soon begins to flow again with the tributes steadily falling down one by one. When the climax of the film happens, it is one of, if not the best action scene of the film. The film does a superb score that accompanies many of these action scenes and it greatly adds to the drama and excitement of the scenes in question. Along with a strong lead performance from Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson is a solid lead character alongside Katniss. It is fascinating to see Katniss’s initial dislike of him turn into some strong feelings.

The supporting cast are also on form. In particular, Woody Harrelson is perfect in the role of Haymitch, the almost always drunk mentor for the district twelve tributes. Stanley Tucci is as charismatic as he always tends to be as the TV personality Caesar Flickerman. Elizabeth Banks and Donald Sutherland also deliver strong performances as the colourful and bubbly Effie Trinket and the dark and mysterious President Snow respectively. The latter of which is a character that remains a mystery and he will no doubt come into his own in the later films. A couple of criticisms of the film is that, as previously mentioned, some key elements of Collins’ work are missing from final cut. Another criticism of the film is that the camera work in the film is shaky in numerous parts which made watching the film a little frustrating at times.

In spite of this, The Hunger Games is the solid start to the franchise that many of the passionate fans wanted. It had some strong performances especially from Lawrence who was the heroine that fans Katniss wanted to be and has proved to be the launching platform into mega stardom for Jennifer Lawrence, and deservedly so. The odds are definitely in favour of the Hunger Games franchise.

Young adult novel adaptations in the wake of Harry Potter have been plentiful, but this might just be the start of a special franchise to rival the Boy Who Lived.

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