director: Francis Lawrence
writers: Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt
starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Sam Clafin and Philip Seymour Hoffman
genre: Action | Adventure | Fantasy
released: November 21, 2013 (Germany & Australia), November 22, 2013 (U.S.), November 27, 2013 (Greece)
Thinking this would be a rehash of the first film, my expectations were anywhere than high. However, the film did overcome some of the initial problems that it's first film had. First with the absence of shaky cam (for others at least), also with it's even greater acting and lastly with it's very well handled direction throughout. Ultimately, making it a perfect example of how Hollywood franchises should be handled. Still the film isn't without its issues. Having a lack of focus on characters, some misexplanation of events and back-stories. But for a film your're watching to see lovebirds and the hungry survive. You can get over these things pretty quickly.
Following the events of the first film and their win of the "Hunger Games". Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), Peta (Josh Hutcherson) and their families are living a rich and healthy life. Though, as winners they will have to tour the districts, promote the games and the authoritarian regime of Panem. This won't be easy for them, as President Snow has seen the danger that Katniss posses, even merely as a symbol of change and hope.
Because of this and other contributing events. President Snow and the new game-master Plutarch Heavensbee will come up with a little swindle. Throwing back into the "Hunger Games" many previous winners, including Katniss and Peta. Pressuring them to have to recapture their survival instincts and possibly form friendships/alliances, that will play a bigger role in the future of the authoritarian regime of Panem.
More than anything else, the acting is what lifts this film up from the other popular blockbusters and silly teen oriented love stories out there. Whereas the "Twilight" relied on being a soap operish joke, "the Hunger Games" has at least the caliber acting from the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and many more. This raises easily the bar on how dumb entertainment can be interpreted to be serious and immerses us even more into the fantasy enviroment.
Not only is this due to director Francis Lawrence handling of the actors' performances, but also his better utilization of his directorial skills in the flow of the story and its action. The previous film directed by Gary Ross, got a lot of flack for it's shaky cam action and while it did have its moments its better that it's gone. As the action is now more at the forefront and Lawrence has a natural hand at showcasing tense and dramatic moments. Even though we still don't buy the inner-workings of the world.
Nevertheless his filmmaking touch has to be mentioned further, because the film is a good two hours and half in length and goes through many locations and deals with as many actors. That for any director would be a nightmare and probably not worth the juggling act in the first place. Because while the film does lose points when it comes to character development and subplot focus. It tries it's best to at least have the film at a level point of having the audience understand the plot, how the characters should feel and what is it that we should expect to come.
This leads us to the obvious reasons why I didn't enjoy the film more or why I'm not a fan of the series. It all began with the first film and it's failed attempts to make us understand how the distrcit world of Panem was birthed, evolved or how the internal mechanics of the world keeps its going. Which is by far the most important factor to any science fiction world or dystopian reality. Second, is as I mentioned the lack of focus on subplots and of character development.
For example Liam's character hasn't done much for the past two films and we haven't really understood why Katniss should still be in love with him, over Peta. There is also very little time spent between those two couples together, that would either enhance any sentiment towards him and or bump up the character charactesrists that we thought were missing.
Besides the internal mechancisms of Panem and the weak sauce character development. There is the elephant in the room, which is the "Hunger" part. Two films in and we still haven't bought that the entire population is starving. When the films are called the "Hunger Games", I would expect to see some malnutrition going on in the world. But no, everyone is super fit, beautiful and walking perfectly from all the nice and nutritious food they are eating. As President Snow we all know is a democraticlly elected representive of the people. Right?
The series biggest issue is that it never makes you understand how this world came to be and that its lack of focus in giving us important character development and starvation moments were crucial to taking these films a bit more seriously. Still, as a film that is about the game of survival, it's cool enough. We enjoy the silliness, the great acting and the little steps forward the films are taking. Also who doesn't want to see Peta get all Mockingbird on Katniss. All in all, it might not be our greatest triumph in movie history, but it is a movie series that hasn't yet easily embarrassed itself with failed female stereotypes such as "Twilight" did.