Directed by Francis Lawrence | Written by Peter Craig, Danny Strong, and Suzanne Collins, from Collins’ novel | 137 min
How exactly does such a compelling series of blockbuster films, with the biggest star in the world front and centre, go so quickly from thrilling to sad and drab?
I’m still trying to figure it out, but that’s what’s happened. I’m willing to admit that after four movies—and that third book should never have been hobbitized (divided into more than one movie for the sake of box office) in this way—I may just be sick of all of it: the melodrama, the heavy, obvious CGI, and especially the tiresome teen triangle of abstemious love.
When we rejoin our tortured hero, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), she’s finally taking the rebellion to the Capitol. One of her two sweethearts, the milquetoast Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), has been brainwashed against her. Vengeance is her plan: kill the leader, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and end the war. She’ll take her other sweetheart, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), with her since he’s actually useful in battle, but somehow Peeta gets dragged along, too. Cue a sensitive mid-movie conversation where the boys talk about the ways they’ve kissed Katniss.
Director Lawrence somehow turns the back half of the third book, including the most violent, powerful scenes in the series, into a dull slog, never missing an opportunity to insert a narrative-halting scene of morose, self-pitying conversation. The previous films offered some light commentary on our societal obsession with celebrity and game shows, but that’s been pretty much tossed aside here.
The action sequences lack suspense—with the exception of about a 15 minute stretch in underground tunnels that nicely uses a few horror movie tropes—and the supporting cast—Woody Harrelson, Jena Malone, Elizabeth Banks, Juliane Moore, Natalie Dormer, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman—barely impact. Worst of all, one of the book’s biggest twists is obviously telegraphed due to some transparent staging, and the unexpected death of one character has a fraction of the book’s emotional current.
Even the series’ MVP, the forever authentic Jennifer Lawrence, doesn’t make this overlong, dour movie worth watching.