The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

SS_D8-3371.dngRoze-Rating: 3 / 5

The penultimate chapter within The Hunger Games franchise brings us to District 13, home of the rebellion. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is not in the best of shapes following the chaos of her quarter-quell Hunger Games and still grieving the capture of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). She is reluctantly roped into becoming the face of the rebel forces with the hopes of saving Peeta as motivation. In order to defeat the Capitol, Katniss must embody the Mockingjay and lead the revolution towards victory.

I absolutely loved Catching Fire, so much so that it ended up being in my top ten films of 2013. It was everything that I wanted the first Hunger Games to be. It was grittier, action packed and free from unnecessary shaky cam! Which is why I was totally excited to be watching Mockingjay – Part 1 especially knowing Francis Lawrence was returning to direct it. Having ended on such a massive and intense cliffhanger, I was ready to see Katniss kick some ass and give the Capitol a taste of their own medicine. Of course you can guess that I was thoroughly underwhelmed by this film. My initial reaction leaving the theater was of annoyance having spent money on a film that didn’t really deliver on what I wanted to see but having also endured the smell of sweaty prepubescent teenagers for nothing (I can’t talk). On a business stand point I totally understand why splitting the last book into two films is smart and inevitable in today’s film industry, but I really did not see the ‘need’ for it cinematically. I think if the film was marketed as what it really is which is more of a darker character drama rather than an action packed film about revolution, then I probably wouldn’t be too bummed out about it.That being said, having reflected on the film and let it sit with me for a day, I respect what the film does and maybe after seeing Mockingjay – Part 2, it could end up being the perfect sibling to the ultimate finale. It doesn’t help that we have to wait another year to see it, which is why ultimately it just feels like an extended cliffhanger of Catching Fire.

I really wanted to like this film, and I did up until about halfway through where things started to feel a bit dragged on, overdeveloped and quite frankly slow. Stuff happens but really in the full scope of the franchise, not much really does, which is why the ending didn’t have an impact on me at all. I wasn’t shocked. It ended and I hadn’t learnt or felt any differently towards President Snow or the Capitol; I still hated them the same as I did in the last two films. It was just underwhelming and I could feel it within the theater, the energy was relatively low and people left without a commotion. I remember seeing Catching Fire and after that ending I was just blown away with excitement. I wanted that reaction.

That being said I don’t think the film is completely unnecessary, it’s a part of the story that needed to be told and is actually quite interesting. For a teen franchise, some of the themes are mature and compelling. I really liked the way they represented the rebellion and fleshed out how impactful propaganda can be on a revolution to push an agenda. It was also interesting to see how Katniss coped with being the face of the revolution and dealing with the pressures of being looked up to for inspiration. At points during the story I felt like I should be resenting Julianne Moore’s character and the nature of the rebellion based on how they were treating Katniss. I feel like there was a missed opportunity to represent revolution as a negative force although essential for change. Although these were interesting themes, it eventually became a bit tiresome as the narrative was stretched as far as it could go. The story never develops and in all honesty nor does Katniss. I was waiting for her to truly ’embody’ the Mockingjay and relish the position, but she never really does. Another reason for why Mockingjay – Part 1 ultimately feels incomplete.

Despite the film being shot gorgeously and the dystopian set pieces being well realized, I felt some of the scenes were edited frustratingly. Two scenes stick out to me at the end. Both having to edit in and out of simultaneous events. (Spoiler) The rescue scene was incredibly frustrating to watch for me. Even though I liked the Zero Dark Thirty feel about it, they completely milked that scene for everything it was worth. It went on for what felt like 10 minutes while Katniss and Snow faced off in a less than thrilling battle of wits, and by the end of what was supposed to be a suspenseful moment just didn’t work for me. It was frustrating because I loved how it was shot, the tinges of red, the way the camera followed them and the stealth. And how many speeches did we get in that film? It felt like too many.

Despite all the disappointment I could not help but admire Jennifer Lawrence’s performance, who is only growing from strength to strength as her career goes on. Nevertheless I really started to miss the no nonsense Katniss we grew so fond of from the previous films as her infatuation with Peeta increased. I can’t tell if she’s truly in love with him or if she feels guilty for the situation he’s in. Either way it’s an interesting relationship and somewhat a larger focus of this film.

Mockingjay – Part 1 isn’t necessarily a bad film, it has strong performances, interesting narrative elements and brilliant shots. Nevertheless I don’t think it merited its own film and could have easily been condensed into 45 minutes. I could understand fans loving this film as it more or less stays true to the book, but I’d much rather watch a 3 hour Hunger Games film that sticks with me forever than a 2 hour film that I’m most likely going to forget. But I doubt the studios care, because they know people like me will still buy a ticket for next years Mockingjay – Part 2!

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Iron Man 3 (2013)

Iron-Man-3Roze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

(Spoilers)

The third installment of the Iron-Man series directed by Shane Black gives us a vulnerable Tony Stark post Avengers. Still hung up on the New York attacks not too long ago, Stark suffers from anxiety attacks and insomnia. His obsession with the Iron Man suits hits new heights as he restlessly tinkers left with an excess of suits. Creating fear in the eyes of the American public is newly established villain The Mandarin, who has bombed countless locations with the aim of exposing America’s corruption. His next bomb puts Happy Hogan former Stark bodyguard into hospital. Rashly giving away his home address to the media and ultimately The Mandarin, Stark may have just created new demons.

What I like about the Iron Man series so far is that in each film Tony Stark grows as a person. We see him develop as the films pass which ultimately keeps him interesting and engaging as a character. No doubt he is probably the most popular Avengers character so far just because he fails to get boring. In the first film we see him experience a traumatic kidnapping which opens his eyes to the business he’s in. It pushes him to change his moral values and his business ethics in order to prevent world violence. Creating the Iron Man helps him make up for years of bad business but also to protect him from the villains he has. Iron Man 2 exposes an over confident Stark, he feels immortal to danger and is ignorant to the thought of others greater than him. He’s invented an even bigger rock star persona which leads him to alcoholism. The pain beneath that hard exterior. Once realizing that there are people with special abilities just as powerful as Iron Man he is brought back down to reality. To become a respectable hero he must put others in front of himself, which is concluded in The Avengers film.

In this third installment Tony Stark is in the process of having a fresh start but first he must overcome his anxiety. The alien attack has affected Stark more than you would expect as living in a world which he once knew is now absolute. He learns that the suit doesn’t define him but he defines the suit. It takes a while but his revelation helps rid of the anxiety and tackle his demons head on. Shane Black freshens up the Iron Man series with a much more engaging sequel where Stark is glorified and not the suit. The action is better and so is the comedy.

I think the prospect of having The Mandarin in this film was a huge turn on for all the fan boys out there since he is one of Iron Man’s main enemies. He is also one of the more interesting ones. In the comics he gets hold of these alien rings which he spends most of his early years trying to master. He eventually figures them out and is able to use each ring for different things, for example ice blasts, fire blasts, mind manipulation, electromagnetic rays, disintegration beam, black light, etc. Cool things like that. From the trailer, personally I was freaking excited at the idea of this villain, and I had no knowledge of him at all. He had a menacing voice, genuine look to him and he was being played by Ben Kingsley. I’ll be honest I didn’t do too much research into the villain before going in which is why when we see that Ben Kingsley is actually just a decoy for Guy Pearce’s character I wasn’t too disappointed since for most of the film we just see him sit and talk. He looked cool but we don’t see him do anything impressive. Of course this wouldn’t have been a good thing for any fanboys. For me it was quite a shock but also hilarious. After researching his abilities I think it’s a villain wasted but it didn’t harm the film in any way.

Guy Pearce is always a joy to watch on screen, he’s especially slick, coy and menacing as Aldrich Killian. He is of course the demon Stark makes 13 odd years ago when he ditches him at the roof of a hotel. Killian reinvents himself into successful business man at AIM. He invests into a human regrowth program called Extremis which is anything but stable. As a villain, he’s nothing new, we’ve all seen these pompous, well dressed villains on the screen before, which is another reason why decoying The Mandarin was a miss. But then again he does breath fire.

The lead up to the big boss showdown was great, we see Tony use his wits and mechanical brain to save the day with little help from the suits. Of course they come in handy at the end. What I thought the past films lacked was a good Iron Man vs Villain showdown. This film had a great build up, some good sequences but at the end of the day Iron Man didn’t have the last punch. It just felt off and annoyed me a little that Pepper was the one that ultimately finished Killian off. I mean I can get over it but I just didn’t see the appeal and any reason for it. We go to Iron Man films to see Iron Man beat the shit out of the villains not Pepper. Also when Killian reveals him self as the Mandarin, we don’t really believe in it. It’s not the awesome reveal that I think it intended to be.

For an action film this is definitely a must watch. The sequences may not be anything groundbreaking but they definitely get out hearts racing. From the destructive attack on Tony’s home to the Airplane explosion. Definitely the best action film you will see this year. We get to see heaps of different suits that Stark has made during his anxiety period, their utilized in new ways and have new tech which makes for entertaining sequences when they are on the screen.

One thing that I wont forget from this film is its great theme tune. Past marvel films really lack a good theme song or one that fits. Once the credits hit the screen and that tune started playing, it really gave Iron Man films a comic book film identity.

Overall for a comic book film its incredibly solid and rewatchable having seen it four times now. It has purpose, clear character growth, logical action sequences and enough destruction for us to be pleased with. It’s a great addition to the Iron Man series and would be an exceptional last.