I appreciate the Hunger Games films for three reasons. One – Jennifer Lawrence. Two – It’s a franchise with a heroine at the center. Three – Jennifer Lawrence. There are many reasons to enjoy this entertaining sequel but these mark my personal checklist. The characters are more interesting, the stakes are higher, the scale is grander, the action is more spectacular, the story is deeper and the cast is stronger. There’s not much to dislike in this film but I was struggling to fall in love with it and that probably has to do with the fact that it is the same film. Again. It is the middle chapter in the trilogy and it shows. Yes, it has been done better but only just.
After winning the 74th annual Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, fresh off her Oscar win) and Peeta Mallark (Josh Hutcherson) have returned to District 12. They quickly became celebrities and continute to fake a romantic relationship for consumerist purposes. Panem’s authoritarian President Snow (Donald Sutherland) wants Katniss to dance at his tunes. To his displeasure, a revolution could be brewing and he wishes he could control her before it gets out of his hands. Honestly, I’ve never been interested in the games. A Japanese film called Battle Royale (2000) had the same premise and made a better film out of it. I have always wanted to see the revolution, which hasn’t progressed more than the “hint-hint” stage.
Katniss, (interestingly) like the actress who plays her, has become a celebrity darling. In one of the film’s best scenes, she makes a TV appearance in her trademark catching fire-style dress but that dress transforms into something else, which I will not reveal. In the previous film, Stanley Tucci would turn up and give us commentary about the goings-on of the games. Maybe they were going for a critique on reality television but cinematically it just seemed shoddy. Now, we just stick to Tucci doing what he does best and that is animatedly announcing the 75th annual Hunnngaa Gaamesss!
The returning actors, especially Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci cement their characters’ potency. The new characters are played by Sam Calflin, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Amanda Plummer and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Calflin and Malone are terrific additions to the younger lot. Philip Seymour Hoffman gets a few scenes to make President Snow patiently wait before he makes his big move. Surely, we will get to see more from this character in the future.
I was skeptical of the change of directors since Gary Ross effectively set up the tent pole. Francis Lawrence takes the reigns and emerges victorious. The pseudo-shaky-cam is gone and the action is filmed with more clarity.
I have patiently waited for the Hunger Games films to blow my mind but that moment doesn’t seem to arrive. They have been gripping and endearing, even thought-provoking. Albeit, it’s been two films and they still haven’t explored the sociopolitical themes that are lying dormant underneath the concept. This is a bit underwhelming, considering how pertinent it is for teenagers to receive some sort of a reflective observation, especially when the entertainment borders on the sadistic. Then again, girls are smarter than boys to filter what they watch. Moreover, in this film most of the participants aren’t teenagers. I’ll take a franchise aimed for teenage girls like this one than something like Twilight, which is sadism for cinema in general. The love triangle here has more emotion than all five of those films combined. Personal quibbles aside, the Hunger Games is definitely a franchise that prevails.
That one scene, the twist at the end, that gasp was worth sitting through two films. It’s what I have been waiting for. Oddly enough, they top it up with an ending that is as abrupt as it could have been. It literally just ends, mid-scene. I was told that the books end the same way, which fails to be a consolation still.
I would certainly be watching the next two films, hoping for something better and bolder. Anything less would be a disappointment. For now, the films land a one-two punch with a possibility of a future knockout. For now, I could just watch Jennifer Lawrence enhance the existence of the cinema screen not by showing skin but by being a fierce and mesmerizing presence. It’s particularly compelling to watch an actor embody a character so well that the pop-culture phenomenon (aimed at girls, mind you) is fueled, not because of it but through it.
Side-note: The film ends with a beautiful Coldplay song, which they wrote for the film (Oscar, please?). No movie which ends with a Coldplay song, can ever be a bad one, in case you were wondering.view less