To say the trailers for the new Hunger Games installment were some of the worst trailers I’ve ever seen might be a bit harsh. Okay, a lot harsh.
To say they were ineffective at gaining anyone’s interest seems fair. The teasers and trailers served one primary purpose: to allow us to mark the date on our calendars. There was nothing there that got me excited for it. I’m invested in the product already so I feel obligated to finish it but what if I wasn’t? This film didn’t hold much allure for me.
I also feel like as the films have progressed they’ve begun to fall apart. The introductory piece was directed by Gary Ross and was a solid starter film. Ross decided not to direct the sequel and the reins were given to Francis Lawrence, a relatively inexperienced director. His most successful film prior to Suzanne Collins’ adaptation was probably Will Smith’s I Am Legend, which held some highlights but critics agreed failed in its conclusion. That was in 2007. Fast forward to 2013 and suddenly he’s directing The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
It was a slightly better film yet I felt there was still so much missed potential that was ignored. The acting from Jennifer Lawrence was just not there and I know she possesses the talents because she was fantastic in Silver Linings Playbook, which redirects my frustrations towards the writers who handed her the lines.
Who is Katniss Everdeen? Who is she really? Does anyone know? Does anyone who did not get to partake in the readings of the original material understand her? I don’t and I don’t consider myself a slow individual.
Here’s what I can say: she’s very sheltered and introverted and values her personal space, which you can see in the first movie when she’s giving Peeta such a hard time with everything. She doesn’t trust easily. She prefers to keep her inner thoughts to herself rather than unleash them for criticism. She’s a talented archer. She struggles to make decisions and stick to them. She’s traumatized from the Hunger Games experience. She loves her family and will do what she has to to protect them.
That synopsis is just about all I can say about our protagonist. It seems like an awfully short list for a main character that shouldered three novels and now her third movie. To say she’s down-to-earth is one thing, but to demonstrate character writing in an almost puberty-like stage is quite another.
Something I mentioned in my Catching Fire review was that one of my fellow critics, Dan the Man, said that Peeta and Katniss were like this generation’s Jack and Rose and in that review, I politely stated we would have to agree to disagree because in no way are persons from a novel aimed at 13-year-old girls as refined, drafted and perfected as Jack and Rose from the legend that is James Cameron.
It’s not even comparing apples and oranges. It’s like comparing Joe Montana with a young high school quarterback named Joe Smith. Sure, maybe Joe Smith will attend a division one school like Michigan, win a national championship and travel to the NFL en route to the greatest NFL career of all time, but there is no way of determining that, even with the extensive analytics we have today. Everyone has the potential to be great, but only time, precise, detailed precision and the never-ending stride for perfection can turn that potential into extraordinary performance.
Due to Suzanne Collins’ target audience, her writings were probably not the best she could muster and even if they were, that is not a jab at her. They were clearly successful books that have led to financial success, critical acclaim and a promising career in the future and I wish her all the best.
With that said, an adaptation of any film should hold elements for all audiences, not just your targeted group. That is what makes movies like The Lion King and Frozen so obnoxiously profitable. Yes, parents are dragged along for the ride, but I doubt many parents would be allowed to be dragged a second or third time by their youngsters unless they got something from the experience. The Lion King and Frozen do that for older audiences as well they should. Everyone should be allowed to partake in the experience and feel like it was worth it coming out. It’s good marketing and public relations. It shows companies care about their customers and it’s not about the nine-digit figures that come out at the end of the weekend. At least not entirely.
When older people come into a film like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, there should be something there that provides enjoyment for them. It’s harder to do if they’re in their seventies, but it shouldn’t be hard if they are in their twenties, such as myself. I’m not that far outside the target audience. It shouldn’t be difficult.
Yet this film struggled to gain my attention and eyeballs. This film’s opening was comparable to The Hobbit.
The Hunger Games crew decided to make their third book into two films. That’s stupid and primarily a money-making decision. Whoever started that trend, I hate them. Even Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, a 759-page finale, overstretched itself into two films. At times, it was a little slow, but it was probably the only book in recent memory that required two films to tell its tale.
Turning The Hobbit into three feature films was pitifully desperate and thankfully The Hunger Games didn’t become that pathetic. With that said, Mockingjay did not need to be two films. Period.
Take a guess how long Mockingjay is? 700 seems like a fair first guess, right? Two 350-page novels into two films? No, not even close.
Try 390. 390 pages, depending on the material, might struggle to make one film, but two films is simply madness. It leads to pandering and pondering and “What if” this and “What if” that and character indecisiveness and plot cliches to fill in space and actors and actresses with little to work with and do you see how this sentence won’t end and it’s really really long and drawn out and is starting to lose any attachment you may have had to this writing because it’s all just wasted space that’s being used when it could be used to discuss or do something people actually care about but it’s not because all we care about is money?
It’s detrimental to your audience, to getting anyone new to join your experience and to future earnings. The only thing that won’t change, at least most likely, is box office totals, because if you hooked them for the first and second, they’ll probably be there for the third even if your advertising campaign was garbage. Like I said, all of this was for the money and it’s hard to respect someone whose only motivation is money.
To help me with this review in another bonus brother edition is Chris, who blogs on theofficialgrump.wordpress.com. Make sure to check him out!
Chris: Jennifer Lawrence was put in one of the worst acting positions in recent memory. They could have summed this movie up in thirty seconds: Katniss Everdeen is the Mockingjay and Peeta has gone psycho. Oh wait, that takes about ten seconds to explain.
Tim: Sadly true on both points. This film’s premise is like that really long sentence I rambled out above: pointless and unengaging.
This visual compilation is a tutorial on how to make political advertisements. Katniss and the leaders of the rebellion make a clip showing Katniss is alive and fighting for the freedom of the districts. Then Peeta, now President Snow’s spokesperson, asks for a peaceful resolution. It goes back and forth during the whole film. That’s it. Seriously. I’m not kidding.
Chris: Liam Hemsworth. Who is this guy? All I know is that women find him attractive.
Tim: Some of my friends at school have discussed the love triangle of Katniss, Peeta and Gale. It was not touched on at all in the first two films. Gale is hanging around but you don’t have a clue who he is. He’s good-looking. So? That doesn’t make him part of a love triangle, not unless you’re trying to convince me that Katniss is finding it difficult to choose between someone who has fought for her life and confessed his love for her and some childhood friend who’s attractive. You can’t bring that into the story without painting Katniss as an immature teen, something she clearly isn’t, having survived through two Hunger Game escapades. If you’re going to make a love triangle and dismember your main character in the process, fine, but you have to characterize both sides, not just show us Peeta being the heroic one and Gale being the hunk. That’s not a love triangle. That’s two people next to a cardboard cutout of a model. It’s not a difficult choice.
Chris: Tim is right. This movie is about making movies and then communicating to each other through them. The course of events in this movie are as follows: Rebellion advertisement. President advertisement. Rebellion advertisement. Choir solo? President response. Rebellion response, etc.
Tim: No plot should be that easy to summarize.
Chris: There is zero character development in this film. Every action scene in the movie you saw in the trailer. This movie was as dull as a Flo Progressive commercial.
Tim: There’s no push to this film. Little is accomplished during Mockingjay‘s running time. Looking where we were and where we are now, there doesn’t seem to be much change. It’s a character-driven segment but there’s no character drive. No exploration occurs and no character reveals are unfurled.
In terms of action, there truly is none to behold. Aside from a few mass shootings of charging, unarmed rebels and one arrow from Katniss, no shots are fired. It’s basically a ceasefire.
Chris: The little amounts of action and the big amounts of talking and talking and talking left me frustrated. The trailers gave a very different view of the movie compared to what we actually saw.
Tim: What trailers? All kidding aside, I felt the trailers indirectly hinted to some serious material and societal clashes going down.
Chris: The trailers were the movie. “Katniss is the rebellion!!!” Thank you Captain Obvious. Every fight scene was shown in the trailer. Overall, just a very poorly directed movies and one that brought the franchise down for me.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cabin in the Woods, Tears of the Sun, Edge of Tomorrow, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Young Guns)
50-59 This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Zoolander, The Expendables 3, Homefront, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Vantage Point)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Billy Madison, A Haunted House, 300: Rise of an Empire, Cowboys and Aliens)
30-39 Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Centurion, Planet of the Apes, Stonados, Redemption, Pride and Prejudice)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (Sabotage, Gallowwalkers, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Safe, Watchmen)
My score for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1: 42.
Similar to District 12’s now desolate landscape, The Hunger Games was a once fertile farming ground for film production, but has seemingly not only dropped the ball, but possibly shut the door on what looked like a promising career for the teen franchise. Unless part 2 blows expectations out of the water and makes its previous portions look like Fisher Price play sets, The Hunger Games has left a sour taste in the mouth of its audience and a black mark on its legacy.