As always, I write this movie review primarily for readers of the source book, but if you must have a rundown, Katniss’s trick to get two people instead of one out of the fight-to-the-death Hunger Games last book/movie has sparked rebellion across the districts and enraged President Snow. When she fails to calm the fires, he gives the Hunger Games an allstar season, dragging Katniss, Peeta, and a full cast of other victors back into the arena in an attempt to crack down on the unrest.
Um… the number of arrows in Katniss’s quiver varies almost comedically from shot to shot?
Okay, a serious answer, the violence is more sanitized than the first movie, almost entirely bloodless. Some bloodless violence works great, like the execution of the District Eleven man in the square, a chilling gunshot behind a barely closing door, but then there are almost Disney-ish moments that seem to deliberately undercut the impact of events, like the subsequent shot of that same man being carried away, dead but with the head he was supposedly shot through perfectly intact. When one of the main themes of this story is the exposure of its world’s unforgivable brutality, the more obvious attempts to soften it feel badly out of place.
The great little scene from the trailers with Prim swearing to do something with her second chance at life is also missing from the movie itself, and of course, as with any movie interpretation of a book, some backstory is lost, including, in this case, a lot of great exploration of Haymitch’s character.
The performances are fantastic, from everyone, returning and newcomer, but as in the first movie, Jennifer Lawrence owns the spotlight. Katniss’s psychological damage is brought out, possibly even better than in the book, and the combined toughness, vulnerability, and passion Lawrence exudes are everything Katniss should be. The development of her relationships with Peeta, Prim, Cinna, Haymitch, and even Effie drew no shortage of tears from me, and due credit has to go to all their respective actors for that as well.
As with the first movie, this one takes advantage of the freedom to move outside Katniss’s perspective and explore parts of the story that were necessarily background in the book, particularly Plutarch Heavensbee’s game behind the game and President Snow’s private life, both to great effect.
Finally, the visuals (bloodlessness aside) are spot-on, from the costumes to the arena and even the new CGI mutts. Fans of the book will be pleased.
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