Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin

“It gets a little tedious after all these years,” admits Katniss Everdeen, and I laughed.

Yes, it does! Especially if this is the wussy way they decide to wrap up a multi-billion-dollar franchise with over 500 minutes of celluloid!What started three films ago as a deadly game of 26 people should end as a nation of millions at civil war, fighting for freedom. What began as a deeply conflicted love story now has nowhere to go.

Novels – even young adult dystopian fare – can have complex politics and two or three related, parallel stories. Movies cry for momentum. If the filmmakers cannot keep the story driving to the finish – provide propulsion and unity – they’ve failed.

That’s unfortunate, because the Hunger Games franchise launched so strongly in 2012 with Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) as director. When Francis Lawrence (Water for Elephants, Constantine) took over, there were fears, but Mr. Lawrence turned in the solid second film Catching Fire.

These last two flicks – Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2 – are just not good at all. The last one wallowed and meandered; this one starts out abruptly (as if we just unpressed a pause button from the last flick), gets exciting for about 30 minutes, and then drags on indeterminably.

Plot-wise, it’s still the crappy future. Katniss (Lawrence) is still the face of the rebellion. Rebel president Coin (Moore) and her spin-doctor Plutarch (Hoffman) still use the young lady for media purposes. They hope to stir up the impoverished districts to band together and take over the Capital. The evil President Snow (Sutherland) will devise any cruel operation to stop them.

Director Frances Lawrence - here with Josh Hutcherson - leads the troops to dullsville.

Director Frances Lawrence – here with Josh Hutcherson – leads the troops to dullsville.

Snow already set up something horrible last film. He captured Katniss’s love Peta (Hutcherson) and reprogramed the young man to hate and fear Katniss. Peta now wants to kill her.

He’s not the only one. Sure, others would love to see the young archer dead. By the end, the audience may hope for it, too. Katniss, in turn, wants to kill Snow.

The problem is that so much of this is just one event after another. There is no sense of mounting tension as Katniss and her team crawl closer to Snow. There are lots of random action scenes but no ratcheting up of the stakes.

Then we get to the end – or what we think…we hope…is the end. The filmmakers draw out the wimpy, vague and uninteresting with truncated storytelling and bad editing for another 25 minutes. Even the actors lose interest in committing. What the book offered might be limited, true. Despite a huge special effects budget – and we see every dime – this feels like Mr. Lawrence, Ms. Lawrence, and everyone else surrendered the fight.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

Honestly, books are books, and movies are movies. If Suzanne Collins’ work couldn’t make a good film, then the screenwriters should’ve adapted it. Francis Lawrence at the helm should’ve known this, especially after the 20 percent box office drop of his last foray. Instead, everyone blandly followed the leader when they should’ve rebelled.

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