Well, if there's one thing I hate to do, it's leave a franchise unfinished, so let's return to Netflix to finish catching up on the global phenomenon that is The Hunger Games with the second-last film, Mockingjay Part I.
Following the recent trend of book series being adapted for the big screen, the final book in the trilogy, Mockingjay, was split into two to be made into two films. According to my movie gossip sites, when that announcement was made, the fans were actually kinda pissed. "Nooooooooo!" said the fans. "Mockingjay is the longest and most boring book of the trilogy! It could easily be condensed into one film!" But hey, it's now the most popular film franchise in the world, so there's cash to be grabbed.
When last we left our intrepid heroine Katniss Everdeen, the 75th annual Hunger Games had been destroyed by the resistance. Turns out most of her fellow tributes were part of a resistance conspiracy to disrupt the Games, and smuggle out Katniss. In retaliation for this gigantic act of resistance against the Capitol, Katniss's homeland of District 12 was bombed into oblivion. Katniss's "It's complicated" Peeta never made it out of the Hunger Games, and was quickly re-captured by the Capitol.
We catch up with Katniss and her family, and her other "it's complicated" Gale, living the underground bunker that is the headquarters of the Resistance. Their HQ is in the ruins of District 13, the last district that tried to rebel, and whose rebellion brought in the Hunger Games as an act of control. The Resistance is led by President Alma Coin, and she has a proposal for Katniss. Essentially, they want Katniss to become the poster girl for the Resistance, and help in winning people over to their cause. Katniss wants nothing to do with the war, but her mind is soon changed after seeing the bombed-out ruins of District 12. Katniss agrees on several conditions, the top one being that, at the earliest possible opportunity, a rescue mission be launched to save Peeta and the other victors of the Hunger Games.
So, as I blogged before, The Hunger Games films are almost split into two halves: the first half is preparing for the Games, and the second is the Games itself. And because of how they split the book up, this film is pretty much all the preparation stuff. We see Katniss being groomed to look good in propaganda videos. She tours the refugee camps to inspire the troops. She gives many inspiring speeches to the camera. Even in the film's big action climax -- when the mission to rescue Peeta is launched -- Katniss is sidelined, watching it all from a control room.
Although, in all this stuff, there was one scene that made me laugh. It's when Katniss visits the armory to get her new bow and arrow. It plays so much like the "Bond getting his gadgets" scene in many a James Bond movie that I thought it turned into a Bond film. What made this all the sweeter is the fact that the armorer is played by Jeffrey Wright, who plays Bond's friend and ally Felix Leiter in the new Bond films.
Of course, there are complications. While Katniss is becoming the star of the Resistance's propaganda, Peeta is quickly become the focus of the Capitol's propaganda. Has Peeta turned traitor, or is her under duress? Well...bust him out to find out!
I'm still amazed at the level talent they bring into these films. Joining the cast this time out is Julianne Moore as the Resistance leader, President Alma Coin. She brings just the right amount of level-headed calm that a great leader needs...but in some ways, she's not dissimilar enough from the evil President Snow. That's the lesson of these films, kids: don't trust authority.
And our supporting cast continues to be as colourful as ever. Elizabeth Banks is back as Katniss's chaperone/stylist Effie Trinkie. She's also part of the Resistance now, and as District 13 does not have the luxury of the Capitol, she goes through her own unique brand of suffering, yet still manages a way to be stylish. Sadly, Woody Harelson as Katniss's coach/mentor Haymitch is sidelined for most of the film.
It was still pretty good, but highlights the problem of splitting a book into two movies: there's lots of set-up, but not a lot of payoff. All of that will be coming in Part II, due out this Christmas.
But you'll forgive me if Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Spectre are still higher on my radar.