The longer the Hunger Games series continued, the more it seemed like I was watching a video game, except that now it had become a game within a game.
The actual Hunger Games in which the totalitarian government forced children to fight to the death in a live-action arena rigged with cameras had always seemed like a half-baked idea in the first place. What government would actually do such a thing and why would anyone believe this would work to keep the masses in their place?
This gruesome spectacle was supposed to be the method in which the surrealistic elite in the dystopian country of Panem were entertained, while the teeming poor were subjugated. Needless to say, it backfires and a full-fledged rebellion begins with the heroine Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, as its symbol. (She and a friend Peeta Mellark, played by Josh Hutcherson, had outsmarted the Hunger Games by rigging it so two would survive, making her and Peeta the darlings of both the elite and the poor, even though the ruler, President Coriolanus Snow, played by Donald Sutherland, was ever-distrustful of Everdeen’s popularity.
The civil war that erupts just seems like another game, especially when the nominal leader of the rebellion President Alma Coin, played by Julianne Moore, takes Everdeen away from the front lines to attack the Capital with a team of other Hunger Games victors – comprising an All-Star battalion – who march on the Capital filming a propoganda movie. Everyone realizes Everdeen’s potential as a celebrity and want to keep her out of harm’s way. But she only wants one thing: To kill President Snow.
As the celebrity battalion makes their film, they run into a series of clever booby-traps that are, in fact, too clever for their own good. Doors slide shut between four pairs of skyscrapers at one point to trap the battalion in a deserted city square. Really? Entire skyscrapers rigged with hidden doors that slide shut as easily as if they were doors to an elevator? And nobody, apparently, saw these things being built? This would be like Central Park in New York City suddenly encapsulated by a dome roof that nobody noticed being constructed. But, it fits right in with the video-game mentality, which allows for such random obstacles that just force new decisions upon the players.
The video-game’s ultimate climax takes place when Everdeen votes to punish Snow with death, but only if she is the one allowed to be his executioner. Spoiler alert: She chooses at the last minute not to go through with it, because video games are all about making the right decision. Making the wrong decision just means more monsters will appear.
Death is aseptic in a video game. Even the splashes of blood are digitally erased after a set amount of time goes by. The Hunger Games has this kind of aseptic quality to it. When the skyscraper doors slide shut, the team decides to go underground, into the layers of infrastructure beneath the city, where they encounter a hellish attack from a horde of slimy, pale, monstrous humanoids. But as soon as that attack ends, there is no more mention of this underground menace. Just like a game, once you get passed the hurdle, it doesn’t exist anymore. “Oh, did you run into the ghouls on level three? Yucky, wow. I’m glad that’s over with.”
Despite all the obvious flaws, The Hunger Games, Mockingjay Part 2 is not only a hit franchise, but it has launched the career of Jennifer Lawrence and changed at least a decade of movie-making in Hollywood. I’ve run out of space in my head for trailers that show yet another teenage girl as the lead character in a science fiction dystopia, who is vulnerable, but has one special skill and becomes the symbol of level-headed reason and the ethical compass for the picture, although can kick ass when she needs to. These young heroines are, essentially, asexual, given there are far bigger issues at play, such as righting all of a futuristic society’s wrongs. But a romance is always lurking around.
The Hunger Games, after all, is a romance story at heart. Throughout the four films, there is a constant reminder that Everdeen has to eventually choose between Hunger Games friend Mellark and childhood friend Gale Hawthorne, played by Liam Hemsworth — two hunks to choose from. I won’t give this decision away, but this is the ultimate ending, which cannot be decided until the rebellion issues are put to rest first. Sadly, with a beatific baby in her arms, the film ends with Everdeen speaking to this infant, telling the child that the wounds suffered continue to play in her head and probably always will. To the victor go the spoils, but this was just a game, so the victor ends up knowing who won, but more unsure than ever of why.