Kat­niss and co wrap up.

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents - Richard Ed­wards

re­leased 21 March 2015 | 12 | Blu- ray 3D/ Blu- ray Steel­book/ Blu- ray/ DVD/ down­load Di­rec­tor Fran­cis Lawrence Cast Jen­nifer Lawrence, Josh Hutch­er­son, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Har­rel­son, Don­ald Suther­land

If ever there was a fran­chise to prove that YA sto­ries shouldn’t just be dis­missed as kids’ stuff, The Hunger Games is it. Within a poster- friendly pack­age, the se­ries deals with war, pol­i­tics and moral­ity, and pulls no punches along the way – life ex­pectancy doesn’t seem sig­nif­i­cantly higher in Panem than it does in Wes­teros. And in a time when the pre­vail­ing tone of block­buster fran­chises veers to­wards light­ness of touch and plenty of hu­mour, The Hunger Games – the one that’s sup­pos­edly, y’know, for kids – is the most se­ri­ous of them all.

But that comes at a price, as this fi­nal in­stal­ment is al­most op­pres­sively dour. It’s not just that peo­ple don’t crack one- lin­ers; they rarely even smile, such is the mis­ery of their ex­is­tence. Even the wed­ding cel­e­bra­tion near the start is a strangely mo­rose af­fair.

It’s also in­cred­i­bly talky, pos­si­bly a re­sult of split­ting Suzanne Collins’s tril­ogy- clos­ing Mock­ing­jay novel in two. The jury’s still very much out on that de­ci­sion, as you of­ten feel here that the story has been padded to jus­tify the run­ning time. With Kat­niss ( Lawrence) and her band of al­lies spend­ing much of the movie mak­ing their way through the Capi­tol for a fi­nal show­down with Pres­i­dent Snow ( Don­ald Suther­land), it ba­si­cally boils down to ex­tended pas­sages of wan­der­ing through an apoc­a­lyp­tic land­scape, punc­tu­ated by a few in­tense ac­tion se­quences. If they’d com­pressed Mock­ing­jay 1’ s pro­pa­ganda war and Part 2’ s sight­see­ing into one movie, it’s dif­fi­cult to see what the story would have lost.

When they come, how­ever, the set­pieces are in­ven­tive and edge- ofthe- seat ex­cit­ing – par­tic­u­larly the one in­volv­ing a tor­rent of boil­ing oil, and an Aliens- chan­nelling es­cape from mu­tated “Mutts”. The prob­lem is that there sim­ply aren’t enough of them. When Fin­nick Odair de­clares, “Wel­come to the 76th Hunger Games” he’s teas­ing that the fights to the death which de­fined the fran­chise are about to be played out in the city, but that never quite comes to pass. In fact, the Games them­selves – the fran­chise’s big high- con­cept hook – are what the two Mock­ing­jay

In­ven­tive and edge- ofthe- seat ex­cit­ing

films lack most. Is it re­ally The

Hunger Games with­out them? Yet this fi­nal chap­ter of the saga still de­serves your at­ten­tion. The cast re­main uni­ver­sally bril­liant, from Lawrence’s iconic re­luc­tant hero Kat­niss ( still en­dear­ingly dif­fi­cult to warm to) to Suther­land, Ju­lianne Moore and – in his fi­nal role – Philip Sey­mour Hoff­man.

And for any­one who hasn’t read the books, the clos­ing act is full of gen­uine sur­prises, con­clud­ing the story in some un­ex­pected but sat­is­fy­ing ways, while re­ward­ing pretty much ev­ery char­ac­ter with a sat­is­fy­ing pay- off. Ven­tur­ing into ar­eas of shades- of- grey moral­ity, the se­ries elo­quently makes the point that the world doesn’t break down into good and evil, and that peo­ple you thought were good can do ter­ri­ble things. That means it lingers in your brain longer than most pop­corn fod­der – as with much great sci­ence fic­tion, the mir­ror it holds up to the real world is a pow­er­ful weapon.

Ex­tras The DVD is bare, but there’s plenty on the Blu- ray: di­rec­tor Fran­cis Lawrence and pro­ducer Nina Jacobson pro­vide com­men­tary; two- hour, eight- part Mak­ing Of “Pawns No More” cov­ers all aspects of pro­duc­tion, as well as ask­ing the cast to re­flect on the se­ries; “The Hunger Games: A Pho­to­graphic Jour­ney” ( 10 min­utes) walks us through on- set stills; “Panem On Dis­play” ( two min­utes) takes look at the Hunger

Games ex­hi­bi­tion in San Fran­cisco. Lenny Kravitz’s stylist Cinna, “dis­ap­peared” in Part 1, is also mirac­u­lously res­ur­rected for “Cinna’s Sketch­book: Se­crets Of The Mock­ing­jay Armour” ( nine min­utes).

But­ter­cup the cat was orig­i­nally black and white, but was re­cast as a ginger to match the de­scrip­tion in the books.

“Se­ri­ously. Where are you find­ing the time to dye your hair?”

“Did she not get the memo about the dress code?”

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