I watched The Hunger Games franchise for the first time in 2023 and guys it’s so mid
Peeta is a burden
I don’t actually know what I was doing between the years 2012 and 2015 to completely have the cultural zeitgeist that was The Hunger Games to whiz past me like a super-speedy train of tributes on their way to the Capitol, but that is what happened. I buried my head in the sand, and never dabbled in it. I don’t know why – I was 16-18 in those years, I literally was doing absolutely nothing else. In many ways, deciding to watch this franchise for the first time at the ripe (and slightly rotting) age of 27 has been nice. I can watch it with old cynical eyes and slag it all off knowing full well I’m no longer in the target audience! Perfect! I watched all four Hunger Games films for the first time in 2023 and here are my well researched and honest thoughts. Enjoy.
The Hunger Games (2012)
Okay – I’ll fess up. The first Hunger Games I have actually watched for the first time prior to this. I think I watched it summer of 2014 in a bit of a daze. Beyond the pictured moment above I truly could not tell you a thing about it, though – so it was a rewatch full of surprises. One thing I was thinking when watching was I had no clue how the games ended in a way in which Peeta and Katniss both survive. So – thoughts on this film. For young adult dystopia, I think it’s really solid. What I love about this franchise is the peril and the violence – it never patronises its audience when so many YA stories do. The political themes and horrors that Panem are enduring are mature and dark, and I think the films do a great job across the board of handling it all. A solid start! The core cast are great – Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson are inspired casting, but I LOVE Woody Harrelson as Haymitch.
The costumes are great, the visuals hold up – and whilst it falls into the usual franchise book adaptation pitfalls of moving at a galloping pace in order to fit a lot of plot into two hours it stands above its competition at the time with ease. Good cast, decent script, always entertaining. It’s difficult to finish this film and not want to carry on watching more.
Catching Fire (2013)
I watched this one with some hype behind it – most people I knew who’d already indulged in the franchise were quick to tell me it’s Catching Fire that is the series’ masterpiece. It’s easy to see why. The plot levels up thick and fast, and whilst I find the lore of Panem and what’s actually happened to the world a bit too ambiguous I loved the fact winners had to compete again. New cast wise, I was beaming to see Jena Malone and the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman arrive on screen – and I think Donald Sutherland is just amazing as President Snow. His quiet menace is so engaging.
The increasing tension in this film really ramps up beyond the games, and whilst the game stuff is still thrilling you end up longing for more of the political tensions stuff. What this film really highlights to me is how much of a melt Peeta is. Sorry guys, it has to be said – that fella is a waste of space. Everyone spends this whole film looking after him! What does he actually bring to the table, may I ask? Katniss needs to stop wasting her time with Gale and Peeta because they both are a burden to her.
Cried at Katniss paying tribute to Rue whilst her family watched on. Heartbroken at the Cinna death – the dresses were all unreal and he was a lovely fella. RIP, king.
Overall – worthy sequel, enjoyed more than the first but not by load, consistent franchise so far that feels a bit too fast with not enough character development but it’s thrilling nonetheless and I’m excited to see how they wrap it all up as the rebellion rises.
Mockingjay Part 1 (2014)
Okay: the good stuff. Julianne Moore is a cuntress. She is… a godsend. The perfect casting. Some of the best hair I’ve ever seen on screen. Every word she says I’m hanging on to. An icon, a legend, she is the moment. New cast wise I’m also thrilled to see Natalie Dormer and Mahershala Ali in the gang. Was also suitably thrilled by the entire dam sequence.
The bad: This film is boring. We need to ban filmmakers splitting books into two, because this is what we end up with. This film should be called The Hunger Games: Travelling About and Chatting. All that happens in Mockingjay Part 1 is Katniss tries to rally the rebellion by being the face of it – which is important stuff, but not too thrilling when we’re just watching her jet about to different places and plan logistics. I still think Gale is completely boring, Peeta is like this franchise’s damsel in distress and we spend the entire time trying to save or help him and Katniss’ family do my absolute head in.
By the end of this film, I just want it all wrapped up. Let’s get on with it, shall we!
Mockingjay Part 2 (2015)
So here we are – four films later. The big ending. Overall, Mockingjay the second is an improvement on the first, but I don’t think either of the two concluding films hold a candle to the first two. The final installation of The Hunger Games franchise has some amazing set pieces. The black tar sequence and the mutts on the sewer are tense, taut, thrilling. The peril feels sky high.
What really makes this film not suck though, is the reveal that the real antagonist is Julianne Moore’s President Alma Coin – who winds up just as bad and manipulative as Snow. I would go as far to say that from the scene in the greenhouse, where a Snow who’s awaiting execution speaks with Katniss about it all and shares their promise of honesty with each other into the scene where Coin proposes another Hunger Games with the children of the Capitol and then the entire arrow final scene is like, the strongest run in the entire series. Everyone acts the hell out of it. Lawrence’s face in the vote when Coin proposes it is just wonderful. I was genuinely thrilled by the whole resolution.
Annoying thing about this film is half of it is so dark at some points I genuinely could see NOTHING. As per my tweet below – I wish this was a joke!
The epilogue is boring, any romance in this film is mid, and the entire franchise’s pacing makes it hard to remember which characters mean what to who and why they’re doing anything in the first place.
The pros of getting The Hunger Games watched for the first time when you’re older and when the hype has died off a bit is that you aren’t sucked into a frenzy. You can watch it with an air of cool detachment and enjoy it with unexcited eyes, which shows up a film’s flaws more. What I’d say now having watched The Hunger Games for the first time in its entirety is that I love how it feels like one film in four parts and the consistency of it all stays more or less the same. I liked the first two more, but not by miles. It was a solid journey from start to finish, and it really stands on the shoulders of its cast who are honestly brilliant.
The negatives of watching this as an adult is that actually, it’s not really for me. And that’s okay! If I’d watched this when I was about 13, I know I’d have been obsessed with it. Serious themes, real danger, violent and mature for its age bracket. All good stuff. But when hand on my heart I say the best thing about this entire franchise is the soundtrack album Lorde made for Mockingjay Part 1, we’re not quite in masterpiece territory. Final verdict? There are worse ways to spend 8 hours of your life.