WHEN I REVIEWED The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part I, I made a grievous error: I described it as the franchise's Empire Strikes Back. What I meant was that literally nothing good happened in that plodding gray film, despite the best efforts of Jennifer Lawrence and the Fellowship of the Ring—not that it was the best.
Now that I've seen The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part II, I can affirm that, no, actually Catching Fire is the Hunger Games' Empire Strikes Back, because everything that came after it is just slightly more mediocre. Alas, that goes for this fourth film, too. To be fair, this one has terrifying humanoid-reptile hybrids. Though clearly ganked from The Descent, they are the genuinely scary embodiment of everything that works about the action-packed conclusion to Mockingjay the First's morose political machinations, which is to say: Explosions! Rivers of viscous crude oil! Haphazardly chosen disguises! Plot developments!
Meanwhile, a motley crew of excellent television actors (hi, Remy Danton from House of Cards!) is quickly introduced and dispatched with, and the whole thing makes a great case for not splitting up your thrilling conclusion, no matter how tempting the cash payout. Because now that we have this movie, you could skip Mockingjay I entirely and not miss anything but inessential pouting. But the good news for the Hunger Games is that it's for children, and I suspect that Mockingjay II: Still Whistling Those Four Notes Ominously will be exactly the conclusion its young fanbase is looking for. As for the series' adult fans, better luck next time. Well, see you at the next Divergent movie!