Before I get too in depth here, I might wish to warn you that there is some foul language contained in this review... And a little crude humor. Please be advised before venturing forth.
Perhaps, it would be helpful, if I direct you to my review of the first film before I dive in? Click HERE to check that out, go ahead, I'll wait here for you to get back.
Done? Are we ready to dive in now? Excellent. As with the previous film, I am going into this one completely blind. I take that back... I saw the first film, so I do have some limited familiarity with the what happened before this movie. So this movie has a leg up in that respect. For those not in the know, perhaps a rundown of the first movie, through the eyes of someone who never read the books.
The movie tells the tale of a dystopian future landscape. A land where the a failed revolution led to the government instating a grand system of gladiatorial games, where the children of various "districts" are sent to fight to the death... You know, because that kind of thing is a blast to watch.
This barbaric past time has gone on for at least 73 years, because the first movie tells the tale of the 74th Hunger Games. The rules of the games are pretty simple, 24 people enter, everyone kills everyone else, one person leaves. But, the improbably named Katniss, and Peeta decide, "You know what? Fuck the system, we BOTH want to win, so now we're in love!" So the two fall in love, and the internet fan girls get to talk about Pee-Niss all they want! (It's a portmanteau of Peeta and Katniss, get your minds out of the gutter.)
Movie number two picks up after that movie ends. Now Katniss realizes she really loved Baby Thor (Liam Hemsworth) the whole time. Also, she's suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Which should come as no surprise, since Haymitch seems to be having his own struggles with PTSD, which I believe is why he drinks so damn much. Anyway, bad shit happens, and we are left with Pee-Niss once again being sent off to die!
This movie does a better job of telling a coherent tale, partially because it has the first one to build off of. Also, since the action of the first one is out of the way, it forces the viewer to see just how insidious this Hunger Games thing really is. One is quickly clued in to the corrupt and downright evil nature of the movie's government really is, complete with the president coming down and threatening the winner, all the way to instituting a series of public floggings and executions to decrease the morale of the populace. On the plus side, the S & M crowd are totally down for this public flogging thing! The movie fortunately stops just shy of flogging Pee-Niss up there on the screen, and for that I am eternally grateful. (Yes. I have been building up to that one. Don't judge me!)
The action in this movie, on the most part, is better shot. There is less of the shaky Blair Witch camerawork going on, so there was less issues with motion sickness this time around. The action still gets relegated to a minor role in the movie, though. The majority of the violence and bloodshed doesn't show up, and is done in cut aways, or half an arena away where one can only tell something can happen by the sound of cannon fire. Honestly this time around, that is one of my two biggest complaints, with this film. It goes for a PG-13 rating, and still shies away from the majority of the violence. It treats the violence as an unwelcome addition to a story about a fake romance that is real, but fake, but totally real, but just kidding it's not, or is it? You can't have a gladiatorial game that features next to no violence, at that point, it reduces the impact of the situation.
The other big issue I have is the ending. I won't elaborate there, but I feel cheated.
Some fun things to note. The movie does do a great job of differentiating the people from the districts from the people from the capital. The people from the districts tend to be dirty, and unkempt. Meanwhile, the people from the capital look vaguely like they just wandered home from a recent gay pride parade. The movie also features one of the best monkey swarm attacks of recent memory... That one scene could have easily been expanded into a Syfy movie of the week sort of ordeal.
Also of note, Stanley Tucci's performance as Ceasar Flickerman steals the damn show. This man plays the most flamboyant fake television personality ever, and he does it with such gusto, one can almost not help but grin whenever he is on the screen.
All in all, I see this movie as a major improvement over the first (except for the ending... Don't get me started on the ending). So, yeah... This was a fun time killer.
RECOMMENDATION: This is a fun film. It looks great up on the big screen, and has all the feelings of a late summer movie. If you were a fan of the first film, go out and see this superior film. If you were on the fence about the first film, come out and see this. If you absolutely loathed the first...well... Red Box man... Red Box.
IS IT THEATER WORTHY: I think this movie plays well on the big screen, and was definitely intended for the big screen. I'd say, see it in the theaters if your budget can afford the hit. Otherwise, a Blu-Ray viewing won't be too terribly awful.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The film is fun, for what it is. Is there room for improvement? Yes. Most definitely, especially around that end portion of the movie. On the whole though, this movie delivers an enjoyable experience that I will likely watch again, if for no other reason then to be caught up when the next film hits next year.
FINAL SCORE: 8.5 out of 10