Review by John Campbell
You know that an epic is running out of steam when the director resorts to a cheap thrill that is as superfluous as it is irrelevant. Well into the last stage of Katniss Everdeen’s heroic opus (and anyone who seriously thinks that Hollywood has not taken to empowering women has either not seen many movies of late or is just not paying attention – I suspect the latter), her band of rebels are attacked in the subterranean tunnels of Panem by naked humanoid creatures with jaws of ferocious savagery.
It’s scary, for sure, and it provides an opportunity for the screenwriters to whittle down the number in Katniss’s team (you can nearly always tell which soldiers will be killed, can’t you), but other than that the sequence adds nothing to the story.
The series in general has been good if patchy, with none of the three sequels able to match the first episode’s balance of muscle and wit. Most notable, and dispiriting, is the darkness that has engulfed what is meant ostensibly to be a struggle for liberation by the downtrodden from their Orwellian rulers (Donald Sutherland is fantastic as Snow, the cruel President with no conscience). There are even moments when Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) herself seems bewildered, especially when the realisation that she is being cynically used as a PR tool by her own equally manipulative side leaves her with only revenge as a spur. It is, undeniably, horribly relevant.
Casting a grievous shadow over the movie, though, was the carnage in Paris a week earlier. The fighting depicted in Hunger Games and its ilk (which is to say, most mainstream action flicks), accompanied by big music and fabulous CGI, is not so entertaining in real life. I winced a couple of times and felt sick at heart to think that punters flock to watch enactments of carnage.
Surely violence, pretend or otherwise, begets violence? If for no other reason than out of respect for grieving humanity, the distributors – the industry – might have at least delayed the opening of their latest mega-death blockbuster.