First Hit: A long and mostly uninteresting run-up to Part 2.
This movie is a set-up, and like most set-up movies it is trying to lay enough interesting groundwork to make the audience want to come see Part 2. God help us if there is a Part 3 because I’m not sure I could sit through another sloggy long set-up film.
In this movie, we catch up with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) as she discovers that her home District 12 has been destroyed. Most everyone has been killed. She is staying with District 13 and their President, Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), wants Katniss to become the symbol for her goal to overthrow the Capitol which is still being led by President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
What is holding Katniss back is Peeta, her love, (played by Josh Hutcherson) who is being held by President Snow. She's afraid that Peeta will be killed. Most of the film is about getting Katniss to become a convincing propagandist. In other words, it is an action film without action. Katniss does this fairly well although, I couldn’t help but wonder why she had to have a role that made her act reluctant - and that it appeared that she did this reluctantly.
We have many of the previous actors back from the earlier films: Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) as a young man who cares deeply for Katniss. Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) a previous and crazy Hunger Games winner. It is also, and probably, the next to last unseen film footage of Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee.
Lawrence is OK as Katniss; an uninspired person trying to become inspired. Something about the brooding look made me wonder if she really like doing this particular film. Moore was OK but I kept wondering if she will turn out to be as bad as President Snow when she becomes empowered ("hail the new boss, same as the old boss"). Sutherland is OK. I didn’t think he was a good choice for the other films and I hold with this thought. Maybe just not regal and scary enough. Hutcherson is in a minor role here but is set up for a larger role in Part 2. Hemsworth was worthy in his role as probably the best on the screen here. Harrelson is also one of the better actors in this film. Hoffman is OK, but I cannot look at him without thinking of his recent demise. Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket steals scenes with her persona. Peter Craig and Danny Strong wrote this lead-in script which at best was mediocre. Francis Lawrence directed this film and we hope the lead in works to something better to come.
Overall: It was entertaining enough, but certainly it lacked some real grit and content.