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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Review: Like film, Katniss can’t find direction


    Color Force

    The film adaptations of the mega-popular “Hunger Games” books have begun their last lap to mixed effect.

    Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, the actress who has helped make this franchise and vice versa, is in hiding. After the conclusion of the previous film, “Catching Fire,” that saw her accidentally spark a rebellion with the shot of a single arrow, she and a band of rebels led by President Alma Coin  (Julianne Moore)  and Plutarch Heavensbee  (the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman) are hiding below ground.

    Everdeen has nightmares that straddle the line between imagined fantasies of the brain and reality. Her sleeping quarters are cast in an artificial orange light — furthering a sense of haze, of being in-between. That’s what this first installment of a two-part conclusion  is: in-between.

    Everdeen is in-between deciding whether she wants to be, or is even capable of being, a heroine. Her actions in the 75th Hunger Games resulted in innocent people, most importantly her partner throughout the games, Peeta Mellark  (Josh Hutcherson), being captured by the totalitarian Capitol. Her emotional limbo stems from this survivor’s guilt.

    Lawrence must put on the most distraught Katniss performance yet. Katniss’ confidence has always been tempered by breakdowns and desperation brought on by dire circumstances but never to this extent. Like Matthew McConaughey in “Interstellar,” she leads a mega-blockbuster with a surprisingly emotional, raw performance.

    The revolution needs a powerful face to stake its claim on. Coin and Heavensbee’s plan: shoot propaganda videos of Katniss to transmit to the disgruntled masses and spark the people into action.

    Much of this film actually goes through the process of transforming a living, breathing, fallible human being into a larger-than-life figurehead step by step. First, they try and shoot the videos with Katniss behind a green screen — or whatever the green screen equivalent is in the future.

    Just like in actual filmmaking, the people behind the camera realize that doing it in post-production is inferior to practical special effects. To get authentic emotion from Katniss, they enlist a renegade film crew that’s fled the Capitol. Who knew that in times of war you could happen upon a director and cameramen so easily? They take Katniss out into the field to witness the horrors exacted upon the different Districts.

    It is surprising to see a film like “The Hunger Games” touch on subjects such as propaganda and iconography. The people only see the brief, edited videos of Katniss looking stoic and never have an idea of the struggling person behind the persona. Another character we are only given brief glimpses of is the captive Peeta, slowly withering away with each video.

    Speaking of Peeta, lots of series mainstays are largely missing. Peeta gets maybe 10 minutes of screen time, and Donald Sutherland, who always brings a certain gravity to villain President Coriolanus Snow, gets even less than that. His beautiful, rose-patterned white suits certainly deserve better.

    There is no Hunger Games tournament, either, meaning there’s not a whole lot of action. When things do begin to kick into gear in the third act, it’s really messy. There’s a red-tinged sequence of soldiers breaking into a secret facility that is the aesthetic kin to this summer’s “Godzilla.” This is crosscut with a character delivering what seems to be very important, eye-opening information on Snow, but it’s all a bit hard to comprehend. Still, there’s a great amount of tension, and it all seems to be leading to something truly horrifying — until the movie falls flat. Indeed, the revelation at the end seems to render a lot of what happened in the movie inconsequential.

    Can this first of two parts be accused of looking ahead to the inevitably bloody, bombastic conclusion of the next installment? It’s tough to say. To a very mixed effect, this doesn’t feel like it follows in the vein of the previous films. I suppose, though, it resembles them enough to make me forget that this movie more than likely exists to split up the final book and act as an extra cash grab.

    Grade: C+


    Follow Alex Guyton on Twitter.

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