Set in post-apocalyptia and following a teenage girl who rebels against the tyrannical government following the participation in an event she didn’t like, The Hunger Games movies made quite a bit impact on a lot of people. If you went to the cinema to see them, you saw fervent fans who could rival the passion of anyone. Their success helped pave the way for knockoffs, they helped cement Jennifer Lawrence as a leading actor, and they aren’t even that bad. Well, mostly.
Here’s my ranking of the Hunger Games movies.
Honorable mention: Divergent/Maze Runner
Released after it was proven that The Hunger Games would be a box office success, the Divergent and Maze Runner franchises showed up in hopes of getting some of that money. Both were similarly premised and aimed at the same demographic, and their lack of quality wound up somewhat killing these types of movies, at least for the time being. I mean, the Divergent franchise didn’t even get to finish after the filmmakers tried to split the third book into two movies and then the first of those movies was a failure at the box office.
Neither franchise is very good and, even at their highest, probably didn’t reach the floor of The Hunger Games.
So, congratulations to you two franchises for trying and only somewhat succeeding in capitalizing on something far better.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
As was the trend for a while – and hopefully no longer is – the filmmakers behind The Hunger Games decided to split the final book into two movies to double-dip on a story that probably need to be split but they wanted double the box office revenue. What resulted was a choppy duo of movies that were stretched thinly and didn’t have a ton of action. Part 2 is worse because it should serve as the emotional conclusion to the story and wound up robbing itself of most of that potential.
It feels like an obligation, when it should come to us as something we want. The problem is that each part of Mockingjay has about 45 minutes of story that’s stretched out into two hours. By the end of what feels like a marathon, the audience is ready for it to end. We shouldn’t want to leave this world and these characters. But that’s what this does to us.
Part 2 also has one of the worst final scenes in a movie you’ll see.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 suffers from many of the same problems that its sequel has. It doesn’t have enough plot to justify its running time. Not a lot happens. It spends most of its time setting up dominoes that don’t get to fall until the next one – which means that it, as an individual movie, has nothing to do. It doesn’t do much for its characters.
It isn’t without merit; there are some fun scenes and the political intrigue is moderately entertaining, but the fact remains that if you combine the two movies and edit out the filler, you’ve got another solid entry in the franchise and the hypothetical trilogy would be revered. As it is? It winds up just being tolerated.
The Hunger Games
Lest you think that this list would just be the movies listed in reverse of their release dates, next up is the movie that started it all, The Hunger Games. It’s a Battle Royale clone for kids, one which primarily follows a girl as she prepares for and then takes place in an arena death match. But, you know, for kids.
That wound up being part of the movie’s problem. The book can describe things and its brutality is left up to your imagination; a movie has to show things and still get away with a PG-13 ratings. The result is a lot of quick edits and shaky camerawork in an attempt to hide most of the kills. It’s distracting.
The movie does do a good job of building up its characters and making us care about whether our protagonist survives. And the action is still mostly thrilling; it just should have been so much better than it is.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Catching Fire did a lot of the same things as its predecessor, but comes across as more refined and more technically proficient. It does everything just a touch better. It’s a bit more dramatic, its themes are a little stronger, the action has slightly been improved – less shaky-cam and quick-cut editing – and the acting is just as good, if not better.
There isn’t a lot more to say about it, though. “Like the first, but better in every aspect” pretty much says it all. It has a couple of issues – it’s a “middle film” and therefore feels like it’s just killing time until we storm the castle – but they’re minor. The first two movies are genuinely solid, both from a pure entertainment and an emotional perspective.
It’s a real shame that the franchise ends on such a mediocre level. Still, we got two very solid movies and two middling movies, so it’s overall a success. It just leaves you with a bitter taste – the yearning for something that could have been great.