The first of the two-part finale of the hunger games series is a difficult one to review. Much like the Harry Potter films this series has taken the popular approach of splitting one book into two films. So right off the bat we have the screenwriters trying to split a 3 act structure into six to flesh out two films and still have build-up and payoff in both. For the most part here they are successful, though not nearly as much as the first and second films were. When you get to the ending you’re painfully aware that you spent two hours just setting up for next years conclusion and it can be a bit frustrating to get no real resolution and just more questions.
Cards on the table I am one of the many, many people who read the books so I did know where it was heading and where it will end eventually but i was still able to enjoy the ride though with maybe a slightly different outlook than i would have going in cold. One thing that struck me and even now I struggle to decide whether it was intentional or not is the staging and set design in the film. I found many of the shots and scenes to come off as false, almost like watching a play rather than a film. Why I struggle with the intention is because, and some small spoilers here, the film is mostly about, at its core, propaganda. How it’s used and to what ends. In this installment we aren’t just seeing how the Capitol uses propaganda to sew fear and obedience, we also see how the rebels use propaganda to spur on people’s passions to rise up and risk their lives for a cause. A big part of propaganda of course is manufacturing moments. Trying to make something false, or planned, appear to be a real spontaneous moment. There is even a point in which the rebels see a beautiful moment that is real and when we see the resulting video they produce you can’t help but think it looks a little cheesy and if we hadn’t seen it happen in the narrative you’d assume it was manufactured.
Similarly the sets and some of the dramatic scenes of the film come off as made, not true. One moment that especially sticks out is when Katniss and her group are at the aftermath of a bombing and they enter through what appears to be a tunnel of rubble the tunnel just being large enough for people to fit through single file. All I could think is there is no way in hell I would walk through the remains of a blown up building, within hours of it happening mind you, with such a small and dangerous path. This is one of many reasons I was never not aware that I was watching a movie, I enjoyed it but i never crossed that threshold of watching to experiencing it. A part of me thinks that a film so about propaganda that comes off almost as propaganda itself couldn’t be a coincidence. If that is what the Director, Francis Lawrence, is going for, I can respect that. In fact if that turns out to be the case it would encourage me to revisit the film to examine where else I might find these themes woven through.
Another issue with the film is the love triangle. Through all the films they’ve teased a Katniss, Peeta, and Gale love triangle and all they ever have done is tease. It’s never been fleshed out and it’s certainly never been the most interesting past of the films and that still holds true in this installment. There’s the hint of a love story here but nothing to really sink your teeth into or get invested in.
Taking it as a straight forward film it comes off as a fun but flawed setup for what is most likely a much larger and more eventful film to come. Probably the weakest narrative of the hunger games films so far but still head and shoulders over all the other YA novel adaptations of the last few years.
– Story is interesting, deals with more complex themes than last films.
– Katniss is still and engaging and likeable.
– Well choreographed action.
– Set Design and writing feels false.
– No real conclusion, all setup.
– Uninteresting love story