Synopsis: Katniss Everdeen is the face of the revolution against the Capitol, after the destruction of her district. And now it’s time for the final showdown. But complicating things is the rescue of Peeta, who’s been psychologically reprogrammed through a combination of torture and drugs to believe that Katniss is a monster who needs to be killed. And now Katniss, accompanied by her friends and a struggling Peeta, needs to end things, once and for all. And decide what the future is going to be.
Verdict: Enjoyable, but anticlimactic. Not as powerful or as clear as it could have been.
If you’ve been watching the movies, this is an enjoyable enough addition–it’s great to see the characters again, and the acting is as ever well-done. So many of the portrayals are just so good. Katniss’ emotional journey, and her morality coming through despite her stoic not-niceness. Peeta not sure of who he is anymore. Johanna and her attitude, Finnick and his sensitivity. Cressida’s presence, Pollux’s gentleness. And that’s just a handful of the great performances–this is a fantastic cast.
And there’s a lot of great material at play here. It’s just that the pacing and the transitions could have used some work. There were times when it wasn’t quite clear what had happened. And there were some changes in the status quo and in Katniss’ mission statement that happened so abruptly, with so little lead in, it was jarring. Some scenes were just kinda there, without the impact they should have had.
There were still powerful moments–the standoff about Katniss’ mission being one. But there were also plenty of things which should have packed a bigger punch than they did, with most of the deaths falling into this latter category. Peeta’s recovery also felt underexplored. The acting was great, but the story, the progression of scenes where he improved and regressed and faced challenges inherent to his psychological state–the flow of that felt a little bit off, like there was something missing. I wish they’d really taken the time to iron out and focus on Peeta’s psychology here. Josh Hutcherson would certainly have been capable of the performance.
It felt like a lot of the best moments were taken straight from the book, without the visual medium being used properly to enhance it. It was lines and dialogue that stood out, but not how those lines were framed. And even some of those powerful lines, things that had really stood out to me in the books, felt like they were just footnotes here. (For those who are interested in my thoughts on the books, and can handle my writing style from three years ago, I dug up my old post about that.)
Still good to see that the series continues not glamorizing war, and portraying the cost of lives. And portraying how easy it is to write off certain lives.
I also appreciate some of the details that aren’t usually included in romantic subplots. Katniss isn’t particularly focused on her love life, for obvious reasons. Nor is she particularly introspective, instead acting on impulse. And the boys seem to know that about her.
Gale cares about having the real thing, on an emotional level, instead of the physical aspects of a relationship. When Katniss kisses him and can’t tell him why she did it, he says “It’s like kissing someone who’s drunk. Doesn’t count.” And I’m like, thank you. He’s not trying to pressure her or make her feel obligated to him–not that it would work if he did. He respects her, and he knows what matters. And what matters is what she feels.
And I always appreciate when romantic rivals can see themselves as people instead of obstacles, so I’m glad the scene between Peeta and Gale was included. Though I thought it was more powerful in the books.
So the movie’s good, but it underutilized its potential. Way more action, but I ultimately missed the deep, constant focus on character from the previous installment.