The Hunger Games continue and while the supporting characters aren’t as interesting as in the first film, Jennifer Lawrence maintains her ability to lead.
Review (with Spoilers)
First, let me put it out there I have not read the books but have seen the first movie. With that said, perhaps the sole driving force in seeing this movie was truly Jennifer Lawrence. Though I am familiar with Josh Hutcherson due to his roles in Little Manhattan & Bridge to Terabithia, he just never fully clicked with me once he took on more adult roles. As for other recognizable names: Woody Harrelson returns, as does Elizabeth Banks & Lenny Kravitz, and the familiar faces of Phillip S. Hoffman and Jeffrey Wright join the series. However, though there are many recognizable names, only Jennifer Lawrence stands out.
Characters & Story
Those unfamiliar with the series, or even the first film, pretty much get caught up within the first half hour. Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) is a young girl who substitutes for her little sister for the Hunger Games, a yearly fight to the death in which 12 segregated districts are forced to have one male and one female be put up as tribute with only one person having a chance to survive. However, upon Katniss coming into the competition, she causes the 74th Hunger Games to be different than the rest. Rather than it be more entertainment for those who live in the capital, where seemingly all the rich live, she becomes a beacon of hope for the 12 districts, all of which are working class.
That is where the movie picks up. Katniss has returned home to district 12, a mining district, and is having post-traumatic stress disorder. Between watching a young girl get killed, partially due to her, and killing people herself, she has visions and flashbacks. Luckily, between Gale (played by Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta (played by Josh Hutcherson) they try to bring some sense of normalcy to her and try to protect her. However, due to the ending of the 1st film, Katniss is now seen as a threat to President Snow (played by Donald Sutherland), as after 75 years of the government squashing the last rebellion, a new one is on the rise, and Katniss seems primed to be the leader. So, due to this, he orchestrates a plan to try to have her killed but, naturally, the story doesn’t make killing the hero easy.
Something weird about this movie is that somehow, within the first 20 minutes, it had me crying. Likely it was because they showed Rue (Amandla Stenberg), and actually gave her district a face. Rue’s district, the Black majority one, you can see the hurt and pain in, something you don’t get a lot of as they rush through the other districts, and the first 20 minutes set a somber tone. Which, as President Snow starts threatening people and using his peacekeepers, begins to turn your somber feelings into anger to the point where you are itching for Katniss to do something about him. And really, Jennifer Lawrence deserves so much praise, not just because she is showing versatility in her varying roles, but because even when she plays a character who mostly looks lifeless in the face, speaks in a monotone voice and, when lively, speaks with the driest of sarcasm, she still can command your attention.
The last thing worth praising perhaps are the costume designs, especially the dresses Lenny Kravitz’s character Cinna makes, and the handful of fight scenes. Though they aren’t as vicious as the first movie, at least to my memory, they still help liven things up as the story begins to slow down.
Which leads what must be criticized. Be it because I didn’t read the book, or because I’m not a big fan of a lot of the actors in this film, I felt most of the supporting cast members didn’t have the type of characters that made you feel invested. The reason I say that is, despite so many people’s lives being on the line, the only one I felt something for, Rue, was already dead and no one gained that same sort of attachment. Albeit, to a point the character Mags (played by Lynn Cohen) seemed kind of sweet, but you knew her days were numbered. Thus making it so the character Johanna Mason (played by Jena Malone) probably was the only one who really got your attention and kept it. As for the rest of the participants, be they ally or enemy, they seemed very forgettable.
And this becomes a glaring issue once the actual Hunger Games begin, for when there aren’t battles happening, you are stuck with Peeta, Katniss, and these little-known people. It makes it so when danger happens, you don’t really care about their lives. Which, I’ll admit, sounds heartless, but considering all the interesting combatants in the last movie, it just seemed weird that these are the winners and they can’t even compete with the nobodies.
Overall: Rent on DVD
This series is entertaining, and being that I spoiled the rest of the films by reading the Wikipedia entries, it seems like a lot of interesting things are on the horizon. As for this film, though, it is a transition film to me. It sets up for the big finish and throws a few things here and there to keep your attention, but it doesn’t improve on the original in my opinion. That is why I think it is more so a rental. Though box office numbers say otherwise, I just felt like I was always waiting for something big and all I got was just enough to say what I paid for wasn’t a complete waste. So, just wait until it comes on DVD, the next movie isn’t due for another year and there is no real rush.