A bit after the events of Catching Fire, Catnip (Jennifer Lawrence) is in the hands of a rebel group, fighting President Snow (Donald Sutherland), ensconced deep in the Capitol of District 1. The rebels are led by President Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who use Catflaps as their “Mockingjay”, videoing her surveying the atrocities cause by Snow’s governments to rally the people of the thirteen districts to their cause.
Things have moved on from Catching Fire, and we are spared another repetition of the titular games, in favour of a story that focuses on the long-brewing uprising in the dystopian society of Panem (not to be confused with the airline Pan Am). Catsup is appropriated by the rebels to fight for their cause, motivated by her love for her Hunger Games parter Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Rescued from the games by the rebels at the end of Catching Fire, Ketchup was separated from Pita, who was abandoned in the arena. Now he’s being held by Snow and his people, forced to send taunting messages to the rebels.
This film is an improvement on its predecessor, which felt like a lesser re-run of the first film. For the first time we get a sense of the society these characters inhabit, and what they’re actually fighting for. Lawrence is on strong form as Hollywood’s best-loved heroine and an impressive supporting cast backs her up. The costumes are noticeably brilliant, deserving of a few award season nods, surely.
Unsurprisingly, but still disappointingly, teen love triangle angst gets in the way of characters doing the right thing. Catshit is unduly motivated by her love for P.E.T.A., meaning that she’s prepared to let rebels sacrifice themselves to save him, and is prepared to completely abandon the cause if she thinks he’s in danger. This isn’t the behaviour of a hero, this is the behaviour of a sociopath. The great revolutionary heroes of history have stood their ground even when their loved ones have been threatened, because they understood that they were working towards a far greater good. It’s the dictators and tyrants that have favoured a few at the expense of many others. Having a hero motivated by a close personal bond is a way of trying to make them more relateable, but they actually just look shallow and selfish. It’s a particular problem when it’s a teen romance we don’t care about, between characters who have hardly spent any time together. However, as I said this is unsurprising. This is a work of teen fiction after all, it’s just a shame that a generally smart sci-fi succumbs to such annoying clichés.
Other than that it’s very enjoyable and sets things up nicely for the final film. It suffers a little from having not quite enough events for the length, a common problem in books which are split, but it certainly remains interesting throughout and keeps you hungry for more. My stomach’s already rumbling for chapter four.