A few years ago I binged-read every single Hunger Games book. Lebron James actually read The Hunger Games during the post-season leading up to his first championship. This was in 2012.
I say this to point out just how long these stories have been floating around. The original Hunger Games film came out in March of 2012. This was a year before Jennifer Lawrence won her Oscar, and two years before 24 aired its comeback mini-series (Kiefer Sutherland is Donald Sutherland’s son).
Seeing this last film was kind of like seeing an old high school buddy three or four years after graduation–you know them well, but you’ve kind of lost touch.
It just feels like the series lost some steam.
This is less about the timing, and more about the fact that the previous film–Mockingjay Part One–really sucked. I’m serious. I knew it was going to suck too, because I read the books; a whole lot of nothing happens in the first half. I just went to see the film because I had to if I wanted to get to the last one–where all the themes really reach a beautiful crescendo.
When I saw that Mockingjay Part 2 had a weaker opening weekend than the first one, I actually kind of liked it. Studios really ruin the stories by stretching them over multiple films, and this one lost a lot of steam because of it.
The great news is that this movie was everything I wanted it to be.
It’s true, this is the best film of the series by a longshot. Jennifer Lawrence carries it, Josh Hutcherson delivers a nice performance, and it is so freaking easy to hate Julianne Moore as we find out she’s the films actual villain.
There are more themes in this movie than pods scattered throughout the Capitol. I give less of the credit to the director and more of the credit to Suzanne Collins, who really wrote an incredible story.
The scale of the books (and films) matured well while also sticking to the original formula of Katniss having to survive game-like conditions. In this one, Finnick refers to the pods in the Capitol as the 76th Hunger Games–no kidding!
With the first one, Suzanne Collins started a small ember that she tended to and developed over time. When Cinna dies in Catching Fire, she was pumping air into the flames. When Peeta turned out to be insane by Mockingjay, she was throwing wood into the pit. When Primrose dies near Mockinjay‘s conclusion, the fire is literally burning on the costume Katniss is wearing. This is the most powerful image of the movie.
The girl on fire couldn’t control the flames. The one thing she wanted to protect in the first Hunger Games was gone. Katniss never cared about starting a revolution, she just wanted to protect her sister. Suzanne Collins’ most poweful theme plays out in these few moments near the end.
The final film also has so much to say about Marketing. The whole series does really, but it becomes particularly blatant in the last two films. We are a society controlled by the media–make no mistake. There are figures behind the scenes spinning a story to control the masses.
We’re lead to believe Katniss is doing good with the promotions she shoots, but really she’s just playing into the hands of President Coin, who seeks to unite the districts just to crown herself the “Interim President” at the end.
Not only does she do that, but she also proposes a “symbolic Hunger Games” be held to quench the “thirst for blood” the districts have for the Capitol. First of all, when did President Coin start smoking crack? And second of all, The Hunger Games were symbolic anyway! Wasn’t she watching? My hatred for this woman boiled over years ago when I read the books.
Here we stop at another theme–history repeating itself. There will be revolutions, peace, and then more revolutions. Somebody will always find a way to exploit the system. We’re just a messed up society.
These stories are not happy ones. I realized that when I read them. There are sacrifices we must make if we want to progress as a society and achieve freedom. Finnick, Cinna, Prim, and my personal favorite, Rue all died so the people of Panem could be free.
It’s obvious from the start, but The Hunger Games series is making a statement about America. These messages are particularly haunting when we realize that.
By the end of the film I felt oddly nostalgiac. I got back in touch with this beautiful story quicker than I thought. To add yet another analogy, it was like somebody pulling out a Strawberry Shortcake after a wretched dinner. Suzanne Collins saved the best for last, and I’ll never forget the messages and lessons these stories taught me.