I didn’t see the first Hunger Games, but I did see the second. I was quite blown away by the first hour or so of Catching Fire, which was a really dark dystopic vision and I thought Katniss was actually an incredibly compelling character. Once they got in the arena I essentially lost all interest. So, I was looking forward to this one: no more actual games, which would hopefully give us more time for the darkness and the character development. Well, yes & no. Really, maybe too much time and a lot of it fairly wasted. The movie has no real sense of momentum and without momentum it’s impossible to have either dread or suspense, two things that really characterized the first hour of Catching Fire. There were positives, of course. Lawrence is simply always captivating to watch. Philip Seymour Hoffman actually gives a crafty, compelling performance; actually, though A Most Wanted Man and, um, some other movie that came out since his death were both more acclaimed, this is actually his best posthumous performance. There’s some funny media satire and Harrelson is, once again, a joy. But the film feels really aimless and meandering; it’s only near the end, with a dangerous rescue mission, that the film really feels alive and engaging. I don’t know, I’ve never read the book, but the feeling here is most assuredly that the book shouldn’t have been split into two parts. This movie could lose a good hour, if not more, and be better as the first hour or so of a single Mockingjay movie, even if the movie had to be a bit longer, three hours or whatever. Also, how lame is it that Jena Malone is in the movie for MAYBE five seconds. I’m dead serious. It’s maybe not even that long. Anyway, disappointing movie. It’s above average, but only barely. I mean, whatever; watch it, don’t watch it. 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – aimless, meandering film has no momentum or drive; good performances can only do so much and this story probably needed only one movie to tell it, not two. 2 ½ stars.