Rebel without a clue? Jennifer Lawrence reprises her role as Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2.”

Two lumps of coal

Latest in Hunger Games, Bond sagas bring disappointment

by Willie Krischke


The “Hunger Games” franchise has grown on me with each successive movie. I expected the first one to be a tepid knockoff of the great, shocking Japanese flick “Battle Royale” – and it was, but it was entertaining all the same.  The second film added dimension to both the characters and the world, and the third, while relentlessly grim, was also gripping. But when I reviewed “Mockingjay, Part 1,” I said this:  “’Part 2’ better pull us up out of the dark in spectacular and heartwarming ways, or I’m going to feel like this trudge through the mud wasn’t worth my while.” Well, friends, I’m feeling pretty muddy and disheartened at this point. Not only did “Mockingjay, Part 2” fail to warm my heart, it is easily the worst of the four films. I was planning to read Suzanne Collins’ books after watching this movie; now I’m not so sure.

Tired of being nothing more (or less) than the mouthpiece of the rebel movement, Katniss decides to take matters into her own hands and kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland.) It’s not clear how she thinks she’ll get to him before the rest of the army that’s attacking the capital, but she heads out anyway, because one of the main points of this movie is that Katniss doesn’t think before she acts (until the very end.) When things don’t go the way she planned, or failed to plan, she finds herself teamed up with Peeta and most of the other recognizable faces from the other movies (Natalie Dormer, etc.) and in a position to make other poor decisions, culminating in walking right up to the gate of the presidential mansion disguised in nothing more than a hooded cloak (“My face is the most recognizable in Pan Em … maybe nobody will recognize me if I wear a hood!”) But then, during the confusing climax, a key character (who’s been on screen for about 20 seconds in this movie) dies, and everything changes, except not really. Then, after that oops-this-isn’t-the-climax-after-all, Katniss decides to act like someone completely different from the protagonist we’ve been rooting for since “Hunger Games.”

If there’s one thing we know about Katniss, it’s that she speaks from the heart and shoots from the hip. This movie makes it painfully clear that she doesn’t think about what’s going to happen next; after all, she thinks she can walk right up to the door of the presidential mansion wearing no more disguise than a hood. So then why, all of a sudden, is she playing her cards close to her chest, plotting against the new president, shocking everyone with her final act of bravery? It just doesn’t make sense. But it needs to happen to bring resolution to the movie, so it happens. This is bad storytelling.

In hindsight, “Catching Fire” is clearly the pinnacle of the series, and it’s just downhill from there. This movie is the worst of the lot. Is it a bad movie because it’s based on a bad book? Were the filmmakers saddled with a terrible plot, and tried to make the best of it? You may know, but I don’t.  

Daniel Craig has now made four James Bond flicks and is regularly voted the best Bond ever. I still think Sean Connery is the best, but there’s no doubt that, during Craig’s tenure, everything around 007 has been significantly upgraded. Instead of the silly, sexist, pointless and mindless action flicks the franchise has so often produced, we’ve seen smart, stylish action movies with believable characters and compelling relationships, and a real sense that something is at stake, that James Bond lives in a world worth saving.

All that ends with “Spectre,” which, for some reason, is a callback to the days of silly, sexist Bond. This movie is such a disappointment after “Skyfall,” which was a high point for the Bond franchise. Everything here is aggressively ridiculous. For the record, I didn’t like “Quantum of Solace,” but at least it felt like a film that was trying to be interesting, even as it fell short. “Spectre,” on the other hand, feels like a slap in the face, a reminder that most Bond films are embarrassing, and the joke’s on me for expecting them to be anything else. This film really feels like it’s trying to be bad.

Following a tip left him by M before her death, James Bond discovers a figure from his past, a man he thought dead, is alive and causing trouble. He tracks him from Monica Bellucci’s bedroom to Lea Seydoux’s bedroom to a fantastic control room in the middle of a desert in Africa. After Bond blows up the control room, he has to save Seydoux – and all of England – from Christoph Waltz and his ubiquitous security cameras.

It would take too long to go over everything that doesn’t work in this movie, so let me just give you the greatest hits: Christoph Waltz is wasted. I don’t know what makes the bad guy dangerous. Monica Bellucci is wasted. Instead of the age-appropriate Bond girl we were hoping for, she’s a one-night stand – and then Bond leaves her to die! Even Dave Bautista, playing a henchman with metal fingernails, is wasted. Craig and Seydoux have no chemistry (possibly because she’s 20 years younger than him.) It’s completely unbelievable that a) she would fall for him and b) that he would run off into the sunset with her at the end. The bad guy’s motivation is patently ridiculous. The film brings back the least interesting, least memorable bad guy in the last five movies (maybe more.) But most of all, hardly anything on the screen is the least bit believable. Bond flicks may normally have a shaky relationship with reality, but this one has reality tied to a chair in the basement and is feeding it cat food.

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