Molly (2017) trailer: the first Dutch post-apocalypse action heroine

Well, I’m guessing it’s the first, anyway. Low-budget SF isn’t something for which Netherlands cinema has lately been renowned. Indeed, even for – science-fiction in general, Boy 7 is about the only other recent feature-length example coming to mind. So getting an email giving me a heads-up about it, pointing me in the direction of this trailer was a bit of a surprise. Here’s the synopsis:

“In a post apocalyptic world where bullets have become currency and medicine is rare, a clan of marauders uses a home brewed drug to turn innocent people into rabid beasts to have them fight each other in their fighting pits for their entertainment. When their leader discovers rumors of a girl with superpowers roaming the beach near their fort, he sends his best people out to capture her. Meanwhile, the girl, Molly, has discovered a young child, living alone in a cabin in the wasteland, waiting for the return of her parents, who are probably dead. Molly has to protect the child and fight of the marauders at the same time.”

Looking at the trailer, there are aspects to like, yet also reason for caution in any enthusiasm. It’s clearly rough around the edges, to the extent that it reminded me of mid-seventies Doctor Who, where every alien planet appeared to consist of the same gravel pit. To what extent this cheapness will be something an audience can overlook, is hard to tell from a relatively action-packed trailer. However, the only review I’ve found to date seemed bullish on that, saying, “The film wears its low budget on its sleeves, but then proceeds to see what level of awesomeness it can achieve with this.” Ok, I’m mollified – or even molly-fied, hohoho. Although I do remain a bit concerned that the film-makers opted for English. While this decision makes sense from a sales perspective, I’ve seen too many horrible cases where people are clearly “acting in a second language,” and it can be an unwelcome distraction too.

The positives include an appealing grunge aesthetic, with this particular landscape clearly influenced by Mad Max, and offering some interesting use of colour palettes. But rather than the supermodel (if slightly limb-deficient) looks of Charlize Theron, we’ve got the far more “normal” appearance of Julia Batelaan, who is hardly the epitome of post-apocalypse chic. Indeed, she looks like she should be doing lighting tech at her school drama club, rather than swinging a sword against a pack of feral enemies. The review also suggests this down-home approach carries through into the combat: “Fights turn into gritty wrestling matches rather than kung-fu ballets, and realism gets combined with inventive camerawork. Molly often wins through sheer perseverance and stamina rather than skill, and indeed, her worst wounds are sometimes self-inflicted through clumsiness.”

All this, and she’s got a pet falcon or something, too. I am officially intrigued, so stay tuned for a review here, providing the makers are able to secure some kind of distribution. Hopefully, that will be the case – because the world clearly needs more Dutch, post-apocalypse, action-heroines.

Cyborg X

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“James Cameron’s lawyer, on line one…”

cyborgxMaybe the makers of this should just have been honest, and called it Terminaliens. For the amount of wholesale theft that has gone on here is really quite staggering. It takes place in the nearish future after a weapons research program goes haywire, and the cyborg results start attacking humans all over the globe. It’s up to a band of freedom fighters to attack the central computer complex and disable the system before humanity is entirely wiped out. Through in an adorable moppet young girl, who falls under the protection of the heroine, along with some crawling through air-ducts, and you’ve got a homage to James Cameron – back when he was good, rather making three-hour epics about doomed icebergs.

The main thread has heroine Lieutenant Spears (Mauro) rescuing Jack Kilmore (Myers), an X-Corp executive who holds the key to infiltrating his company’s former HQ. You may have to resist the urge to yell “He’s a cyborg!” at your television set, but that’s actually just Myers’s style of acting. There’s also Col. Shaw (Johnson), who smokes cigars and yells a lot, while the nerdy Wizkowski (Stormoen), has a name which seems curiously close to being another Aliens rip-off… Finally there’s even a tough Hispanic chick, Lopez, who – in full keeping with the Aliens approach – is played by the thoroughly non-Hispanic Angie Papanikolas.

One upgrade on Aliens is that Danny Trejo shows up for a bit, as another one of the soldiers, which is nice. We love us some Danny Trejo. He would likely have made Aliens  Otherwise, the rampant plagiarism is all a bit of a shame, since some of the other aspects aren’t bad. The CGI drones which are Skynet’s X-Corp’s surveillance system are nothing to write home about, but the more practical effects are solid, with some surprisingly gory moments. One woman gets the front of her head blown off, while later, a man is cut in half, and left to crawl along the ground, his intestines trailing behind him. Meanwhile, Spears manages to kick ass while looking decent doing it, even when yanking a Very Large Bazooka out of nowhere. Fortunately, supplies of beauty products apparently have not been interrupted by this apocalypse.

This wouldn’t be out of place on the SyFy channel, and stands up decently enough against others of its ilk. If you haven’t seen the Terminator series or Aliens, you would probably enjoy this a good deal more – though if so, that does beg the question, why are you watching the SyFy channel? But I just wish the makers had put more effort into creating a plot that was not so tired and over-familiar. If the resources devoted to this had been applied to an original story-line, it could have been a small gem, rather than feeling like a lame rip-off of genre classics.

Dir: Kevin King
Star: Eve Mauro, Rocky Myers, Adam Johnson, Jake Stormoen

The Darkest Dawn

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“Illegal aliens”

darkestdawnThis is apparently a sequel to a previous movie about an alien invasion of Earth (and, specifically, the United Kingdom) from the same director, Hungerford. While I haven’t seen it, this likely didn’t impact things too much here; I sense it’s perhaps closer to a separate story, unfolding in the same universe, than a true sequel. It’s the story of teenage sisters Chloe (Leadley) and Sam (Wallis), with the former getting a video camera for her birthday – just in time for said invasion to kick off, with their family being separated in the ensuing chaos. Toting her camera, Chloe and her sibling take shelter, then scurry through the blasted landscape, facing the threat not just of the extra-terrestrials, but renegade bands of survivors. For it also turns out Chloe, specifically her blood, is a key to the resistance. What are the odds?

There’s a strong sense of Cloverfield here, with the alien threat glimpsed more in passing than directly. The major difference is probably the human element, since the sisters are in peril from other people, as much if not more than from the invaders. Of course, the whole “found footage” thing has been utterly done to death since Blair Witch – and I think even that was vastly over-rated. Here, it adds precious little to proceedings, and there’s not much which could have been done equally as well (or, arguably, better), with an external viewpoint. It has all the usual issues of the genre; most obviously, why the lead character keeps filming, when on multiple occasions common sense and survival instinct would dictate dumping the camera and legging it. But then, a more conventional approach probably would have led to the production costing a great deal more than £40,000 (approx. 1/500th that of Cloverfield).

The two leads are, I believe, YouTube stars rather than professional actresses, and that’s a bit of a double-edged sword. They do have a natural and unaffected quality, which helps their characters avoid falling into the irritating teenager trap. But they don’t have much more, and any time there is actual acting required – rather than reacting – then they come up short. While the script does give Chloe a decent arc, going from a typically self-obsessed teenage girl into a focused and determined young woman, the climax feels somewhat undercooked. It does not offer the viewer much in the way of resolution, I suspect because writer-director Casson perhaps wants to return to the same milieu in future.

While I wouldn’t be averse to that, I hope Casson (dear God, I just realized he’s only 22 and has already made and had released two cinematic features) stretches his talents into more than the found footage genre, since too often this is merely a crutch for low-budget film-makers, used to excuse away shaky camerawork and improvised dialogue. There’s some evidence of talent visible here, on both sides of the camera – providing you can get past the likely motion sickness this may cause.

Dir: Drew Casson
Star: Bethan Mary Leadley, Cherry Wallis, Stuart Ashen, Drew Casson

Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay

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“Zombies vs. wrestlers.”

battle-girlA meteor crashes into Tokyo Bay, creating a cloud of “cosmo-amphetamine” that infects everyone in the area. When they die, that drug immediately takes over, bringing them back to life as flesh-eating zombies. Colonel Kirihara is leading the rescue mission, and sends his daughter, K-ko (Suzuki) into the contaminated zone to scope things out. She finds that one of his underling, Captain Fujioka, is using the chaos to carry out human experiments, deliberately infecting survivors with the cosmo-amphetamine, in order to turn them into an unstoppable force of undead soldiers. He’s not willing to let anyone get out alive, least of all K-ko. Fortunately, her father gave her a battle suit, which helps to even the odds against the living dead army she faces.

It’s a small-scale production, though has had more than the usual thought put into it. I appreciated, for example, the scene inserted at the beginning, to explain why the power remains on in the city, despite the unfolding disaster. The first half is nicely put together, with K-ko making her way through the city, encountering the “Battle Kids”, a bus-driving group of black marketeers, and uncovering Fujioka’s evil pans for those unfortunate enough to be inside the quarantined area. It’s less effective down the stretch, becoming not much more than a series of human vs. zombie battles, that blur into each other without much sense of escalation. It’s no spoiler to say it leads to the inevitable battle between K-ko and the soldier-scientist. Albeit, only after an unconvincing gobbet of exposition, with clumsy lines like, “If the world powers dare to wipe out our nation, we’ll counter attack with 35 meltdown-ready nuclear plants in Japan and a cosmo-amphetamine mutant army which has no fear of death.”

At the time, Suzuki was one of the biggest stars in Japanese women’s pro-wrestling, and acquits herself fairly well in the action scenes. These are blocked and shot in a similar way to puroresu, with a minimum of editing, and some of her ring rivals also show up as members of Fujioka’s “Human Hunter Unit,” including Devil Masami, Shinobu Kandori and Eagle Sawai. This explains why the combat includes moves not normally seen in hand-to-hand battles, including the tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and tombstone piledriver. It does not, however, explain the battle bikini, worn in particular by one opponent. You’ll know her when you see her. Or them, if you know what I mean and I think you do…

Overall though, time has been fairly kind to this 1991 Japanese video production. A quarter of a century later, it appears to have had a significant influence on the Resident Evil films, particularly Apocalypse. It has perhaps also benefited from the renaissance in the zombie genre over the past few years. While still unquestionably low-budget, what seemed somewhat underwhelming when I originally watched it in the late nineties, now seems quite acceptable, and maybe even ahead of its time.

Dir: Kazuo Komizu
Star: Cutie Suzuki, Kera, Keiko Yahase, Kenji Otsuki

Iron Girl: Ultimate Weapon

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“Post-apocalyptic soft-porn sci-fi soap-opera.”

irongirlHaving used my entire quota of hyphens for this review in that tag-line, what do we have here? I could remember virtually nothing about the original, even though it was only a couple of years ago we reviewed it. Seems to have ended up with the same vaguely mediocre rating though. The problem here, however, is mostly one of pacing. After a brief flurry of impressive activity at the beginning, there’s not much happening on the action front for about an hour, and what takes its place falls short of adequate entertainment.

It’s the same setting, with Japan’s technocracy having imploded, and the country now a slew of little fiefdoms, where bandits and bounty hunters roam the land. Chris (Asuka) is the latter, trying to raise enough reward money so she can buy a device that will restore her memories. She was unconscious and suffering from amnesia when found by fellow bounty-hunter Kento (Iwanaga) and his sidekick, Miriya (Kishi). Now, with the aid of her nifty cyborg suit ‘n’ sword, she’s taking out the leaders of the Sparti gang, who are less than impressed with her work. So, they lure here away from the peaceful settlement where she lives, and while she’s out, get medieval on the scientists and others who are there. This doesn’t exactly discourage Chris, obviously.

In between the opening, where she saves a brothel from harassment, and the final assault on the Sparti headquarters, there’s not much going on. You get a fair amount of Chris using her sexuality on men, then whacking them in the crotch, to the extent this begins to feel like a Japanese version of Ow! My Balls! [or a Japanese game-show; you decide] This could be a commentary on the male gaze, except the film itself is obviously extremely interested in that perspective of Asuka, as evidenced by the gratuitous shower-scene. There’s obviously some unresolved sexual tension between her and Kento, and she has her own sidekick to fend off, a lecherous guy wearing aviator goggles, who provides broad comic relief. It’s all not very interesting, unfortunately.

The action scenes do seem a little better, with Asuka making a greater impression this time – experience does matter, it seems. If there’s nothing quite as memorable as the opening fight, where she traps an opponent’s sword with her high heels(!), the film delivers some fairly decent battles in the final chunk. Chris works her way up the Sparti chain of command, until facing someone (thing?) who may be her equal in terms of technological enhancements. It’s likely no spoiler to say the film does not end with the heroine recovering her movies, instead setting things up for a third entry in the series. I guess I’ll be watching it, and imagine by the time that happens, I’ll have forgotten all about this second movie, just as much as I did the first.

Dir: Kenichi Fujiwara
Star: Kirara Asuka, Hiroaki Iwanaga, Asuka Kishi, Ryunosuke Kawai

Into the Forest

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“After the apocalypse, life will be… kinda dull, actually.”

intotheforestNell (Page) and Eva (Wood) are sisters, living in a house deep in the woods with their father (Rennie). Nell is studying for her SATs, Evan is working towards a dance audition, until all plans are interrupted by a catastrophic power outage which leaves the entire country without electricity. Fortunately, they are almost self-sufficient, capable of living off the land as far as food and heat is concerned, even if the lack of power and very limited fuel forces some significant changes in lifestyle: Eva is reduced to practicing her dance routine to the relentless tick of a metronome, for instance. But when the women are thrown entirely onto their own resources, life becomes tougher, and various hard questions have to be answered, about whether to stay in their remote, apparently fairly safe location, or follow the reports suggesting that the Eastern seaboard may slowly be getting back to normal.

It’s nowhere as exciting as your typically post-apocalyptic scenario, though this perhaps has a greater ring of plausibility to it than the usual Mad Max-iness. When the world falls apart, it’s more likely to be with a whimper than a scream. That said: I don’t know who built their home, since it falls into complete dilapidation in less than a year, with a roof that starts leaking like a sieve in just a couple of months. What is it made of? Papier-mache? [I’m perhaps biased here, since the house I grew up in is over 200 years old, and somehow, still stands] This is likely a narrative conceit, necessary to force the heroines out of their survival-based inertia, which occupies the majority of the film. That angle is one of the disappointing areas: they’re reactive, rather than pro-active. If left entirely to their own devices, this might have ended up as little more than 100 minutes of the sisters gathering berries.

It does manage to go beyond that, mostly thanks to the performances of Page and Wood, who have a natural chemistry that feels authentic. They bicker like sisters, and fight like sisters, yet also show that when the chips are down, blood is thicker than water. This is demonstrated with the unexpected appearance of Nell’s boyfriend (Minghella), though he serves little other purpose before walking out of the film’s scope again. Page is also far too old these days to be a convincing high-school student: Juno was the best part of a decade ago now, and she wasn’t in her teens even when that came out. There is something to be said for a more character-driven apocalypse, one which consists of more than a steady stream of threats to be violently countered. However, this likely tilts the balance too far the other direction, and ends up with something too introverted and navel-gazing to be interesting.

Dir: Patricia Rozema
Star: Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella, Callum Keith Rennie

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

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“Not exactly Harry Potter vs. Voldemort, shall we say”

mockingjay2Unlike the adventures of our schoolboy wizard, where the final installment took the most at box-office, this was the least successful of the Hunger Games movies. And I can see why: almost without exception, it’s a relentless downer, rather than a grandstanding finale. I have not, to this point, read the book on which it is based, so can’t say how accurately this cynical tone reflects the novel, but based on the movie, let’s just say, politicians as a species do not come out of it with a glowing portrayal! It begins immediately after the end of the events of Part 1, when Katniss (Lawrence) was attacked by brainwashed ally Peeta (Hutcherson). Meanwhile, the rebellion gains momentum and territory, as they head towards the Capitol. Katniss’s role is now as a ‘Joan of Arc’, a rally point, and she is sent into the Capitol as part of a propaganda squad. However, she subverts the mission, claiming secret orders to assassinate President Snow, although it becomes clear that the lines between “good” rebels and “evil” establishment are increasingly vague.

Perhaps more than in the other installments, it’s apparent here how good an actress Lawrence is, and how much this helps. Some of the scenes are extraordinarily impressive, such as her quietly talking to a loyalist soldier who has his gun jammed up underneath her chin. There are also some impressive moments of spectacle, such as her squad’s entrapment by a massive, rising flood of tar. Two hours of that, ending in Katniss delivering a monologue and shish-kebabbing President Snow, would I think, have been superior to the rather bloated two-parter we were given – even if it’s not as gratuitously over-stretched as The Hobbit. Still, even looking strictly at this final part, the last third (and given the film runs almost 140 minutes, that’s a fair amount of screen time)  feels more like reading the Very Deep political thoughts of a somewhat paranoid teenage boy. Virtually all nuance is replaced with the movie’s largely unsubtle whacking on the audience’s head with a copy of the script, when not tying up a love triangle, which has been an irritant for the entire series.

Even if none of the four entries managed to achieve our seal of approval (this one likely came the closest), you can’t argue with the success of a franchise which earned almost three billion dollars at the box-office worldwide, and countless more on DVD, etc. Depending on your definition, no action heroine film before this had taken even $140 million at the North American box-office; the lowest figure achieved here was more than double that. It has, unquestionably redefined the landscape and shown that, yes, girls with guns bows can hold their own in purely commercial terms. We can but hope that its success will open the door for other ventures, whether based on existing properties or fully-original ones. Though those will probably have to overcome the significant difficulty, of not having an Oscar-winner like Lawrence to anchor them. At least going by her ongoing work as Mystique in the X-Men universe, it doesn’t seem our genre’s biggest star now considers action to be beneath her – hopefully, that will continue. For there can be no question that throughout this, she was The Hunger Games’s biggest strength, and whatever its flaws overall, she gave us a Katniss Everdeen the character deserved.

Dir: Francis Lawrence
Star: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson

The Quiet Hour

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“Alien apocalypse? Time for a nice cup of tea.”

quiethourIt took me forever to figure out where I’d seen the heroine before. Turns out Richards was also the young central character of The Golden Compass though in my defense, she was two-thirds of the age she is here. The film takes place some time after an alien invasion has effectively destroyed humanity, in order to strip-mine resources from the earth’s core: for all except a brief period of two hours each day, anyone found outside is ruthlessly tracked down and killed by the aliens’ craft. Hiding out in their rural farmhouse are Sarah (Richards) and her brother, Jude (McMullen), the latter having been blinded during the initial assault. Their isolated security is disrupted by the arrival of the wounded Tom Connelly (Davies) – he is being pursued by another group of survivors, with highly unpleasant dietary habits and led by Kathryn (Millar), who lay siege to the house, demanding Sarah hands over Tom to them.

By coincidence, I watched this the same week as the similarly-themed (though alien-free) October Gale, with Patricia Clarkson as the woman under siege after helping a wounded guest. This is actually better, with the director here having a better handle on the escalating tension, and Richards giving a solid performance, trying to put a brave face on a steadily-disintegrating situation, for the sake of Jude. What’s curious here, is how the aliens are almost irrelevant to the rest of proceedings: for virtually the entire movie, they’re just a backdrop in front of which the bigger threat, of Kathryn and her clan, plays out. It’s a strange approach. I kept expecting the extraterrestrial angle to be more significant, and if you’re expecting something like a British version of Independence Day, you are going to be very, very disappointed, as this is much more slower-paced, almost to the point of glacial.

However, I can’t say I minded too much, as that makes for a more character-driven movie, and the aliens’ almost-complete indifference to humanity is, in some ways, more chilling; it’s as if we were insects, worthy only of swatting. On the other hand, it feels a bit of a bait and switch, being little more than an excuse for why there’s no external help coming for the siblings – a slightly more sophisticated version of waving a cellphone around and saying, “No signal”. Still, Sarah has a nice sense of English resolve to her, in a ‘Keep calm and carry on’ kinda of way, and Richards shows enough here to make her a name to look out for. Hopefully, The Golden Compass, will not be her sole big-budget effort, since on the evidence here, she deserves better..

Dir: Stéphanie Joalland
Star: Dakota Blue Richards, Karl Davies, Jack McMullen, Brigitte Millarof

Mutant World

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“Well, it’s no Sharknado 2. It’s not even Sharknado 3.”

mutantworldThis SyFy original movie takes place mostly after an “Earth killer”-sized meteor has struck the Eastern seaboard of the United States. A group of Doomsday preppers, with slightly more warning than most, are able to take shelter inside their refuge, a former missile silo, and settle down to wait out the apocalypse going on above ground. 10 years later, they’re forced to send a small group back up to the surface as the result of damage to their solar panels. Leading that patrol is Melissa King (Deveaux), whose father Marcus (Kim Coates, whom you will recognize if you’re a Sons of Anarchy fan) was the leader of the group, but was trapped outside their sanctuary when the meteor hit. The patrol discovers that the radiation resulting from the impact has wiped out most of humanity – but the survivors have been mutated by it, and turned into thoroughly unpleasant monsters. Exploring further, they find what appears to be sanctuary, populated by other survivors, only to discover that when the sun goes down, they too are no longer human. Fortunately for them, assistance is at hand in the former of the Preacher (Ashanti), a motorcycle riding, warrior-priestess, who appears to be in contact with the actual remnants of mankind.

Oh, dear. The potential is here, but is buried deeper than a nuclear fallout shelter, because there is hardly any aspect that is not badly botched, right from the start: Coates, the only real “name” in the cast, is barely in the film, the kind of bait-and-switch which is rarely a good sign. The script is just terrible: what’s supposed to be a quick mission up top to fix the power, somehow spirals off into a jolly road-trip, with no apparent regard for the people back in the bunker. While the mutants’ glowing green eyes are kinda cool, that is about as far as both the imagination and the budget goes; there’s no explanation provided either, for why some people are totally mutated, some are only mutated at night (!), and others, like the Preacher, are apparently entirely untroubled by mutantism, despite wearing no more protection than a long trench-coat. And don’t even get me started on Ashanti’s performance, which is about as unconvincing as you’d expect from a singer-slash-dancer-slash-whatever.

The film is clearly trying to establish Melissa’s credentials as some kind of a bad-ass, judging by the poorly-choreographed fight she has with the shelter leader, before heading up top [also worth noting: no-one appears to have aged or been changed in the slightest by the passage of a decade, whether underground or on the surface]. Outside of very intermittent moments, it doesn’t work, though in comparison to Ashanti, Coates is positively an Oscar-winner. I did somewhat appreciate the element of role-reversal found here, with the most bad-ass roles given to the actresses. However, good intentions are never enough to overcome execution as horribly flawed as we see here. By the end, I was hoping for another meteor strike, to put both the characters and the viewers out of our mutual misery.

Dir: David Winning
Star: Holly Deveaux, Ashanti, Amber Marshall, Jason Cermak

Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins

Literary rating: starstarstar
Kick-butt quotient: action2action2action2

Mockingjay-Suzanne-CollinsGoing into this book, I was very much aware that reader opinion about it was deeply divided, and had picked up bits and pieces of partial “spoilers,” though not enough for me to predict exactly how events would turn out. Having now read it and made my own call, I have to agree with those reviewers who feel that Collins did drop the ball, big time. But my reason for this conclusion consists of eight lines in the penultimate chapter, in which Katniss does something completely out of left field and completely foreign to her character. Granted, they’re extremely crucial lines, that color my impression of the entire book. Everything before and after that could have made the book a five-star read. If I rated those eight lines by themselves, I’d give them negative stars if it was possible. I adopted three stars as an overall rating to reflect my disappointment, but also the fact that, for most of the time I was reading, I was really liking the book.

On the plus side, the book is a definite page-turner. I relished my reading time, hated to put it down, and was eager to take it up again. The prose is vivid and smooth-flowing (I’m completely used to Katniss’ present-tense narrative voice); the author evokes powerful emotions; the plotting throws us frequent surprises I did not expect, even after, as I said, picking up partial spoilers here and there; there are thought-provoking moral dilemmas that are usually resolved appropriately (with one lulu of an exception!), and action scenes are handled well. For the most part, the characterization is life-like (again, with one exxception). To be sure, this is a very dark read. Characters the reader deeply likes die, often horribly. The painful cost of war, even necessary war that’s waged to eradicate great evil, isn’t glossed over and minimized. But that isn’t necessarily a flaw in the book.

I would, having read the book, defend it against some of the criticisms I’ve met with. Although my own daughter thinks it preaches a message of ultimate despair and negation, I honestly did not take that from it; I found it much more positive and hopeful than that. (In that respect, I was actually pleasantly surprised, having expected much worse.) Through most of the book, I found Katniss’ character pretty consistent with the one we met in the first two books. Frankly, I did not find her selfish, self-absorbed, or immature here, allowing for the fact that for large portions of the book she’s traumatized (with good reason) and heavily drugged. There are plenty of instances throughout the book where she acts with enough selflessness and sacrificial concern for others (and more maturity than some of the adults) to absolve her from these charges, IMO. All but one of her actions in the book are, in my estimation, either justified –even if they’re gut-wrenching– or excusable and understandable. Some readers have criticized Collins’ plotting decisions in places, but I find all but one defensible and justified, including the crucial one of how much of the action Katniss is privy to. And while the author makes the point that even justified revolutions can have some leaders who are only motivated by desire for their own power, and who would willingly betray the revolution once they get a chance (historically, that’s happened frequently!), I did not see any message that armed resistance to tyranny is always automatically wrong and futile.

I’m not sorry I finished reading the series and made my own judgment of it. I’m just sorry that Collins didn’t respect her main character (and her readers!) enough to let Katniss consistently be who she’s been shown to be through hundreds of pages and virtually an entire immersive reading experience.

Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Press, available through Amazon, both for Kindle and as a printed book.

A version of this review previously appeared on Goodreads.