After a decidedly inferior sequel to Hunger Games 1, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has made a mighty return to the screen. It’s not absolutely essential to be au fait with what has happened previously; the preamble will only briefly confound those not familiar with the conflict.
Soon enough it is apparent that we are in a dystopian society that is ruthlessly controlled by a central power. Katniss and her followers represent the great unwashed of the outer districts, but in her case she was once a figurehead for the oligarchy. She is no longer a babe in the woods and, with the insights offered by the minders who have joined her side, including Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), Effie (Elizabeth Banks) and Plutarch (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), she has become acutely aware of the value of image, propaganda and role-playing.
Haymitch has one of the best lines when, to Katniss’s ‘what if I get killed?’, he replies, ‘Make sure the cameras are rolling’. Katniss also understands that power can corrupt the leader of any cause as the rebel forces’ President Coin (Julianne Moore) strives to overthrow the wicked President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
The subterranean problem inherent in this and similar ‘liberation’ blockbusters lies in the movie’s struggle to free itself from the straightjacket of its own double standard. How dare an industry that awards itself grotesque salaries and presents its stars as demigods pose as the champion of the downtrodden when it is comfortably ensconced as a down-treader? Or as the iconoclast that would shake the ground on which its Beverly Hills palaces are built? It’s bogus, of course the people who profit from these movies don’t want the world to change one bit… but, nevertheless, the fire might catch on.
Lawrence, Sutherland and Harrelson are great, and the CGI, now overdone to the point where it is merely repetitive eye-candy for boneheads, is used to brilliant effect when Katniss brings down a jet-fighter with her bow-and-arrow.
The message is urgent, but not so urgent that we can’t wait for a Part 2.
~ John Campbell