THE HUNGER GAMES:
MOCKINGJAY PART 2
2015, PG-13, 136 mins.
2015, PG-13, 136 mins.
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen / Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark / Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne / Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy / Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket / Julianne Moore as Alma Coin / Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee / Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow / Willow Shields as Primrose Everdeen / Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair / Jena Malone as Johanna Mason / Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman / Jeffrey Wright as Beetee Latier / Natalie Dormer as Cressida / Paula Malcomson as Mrs. Everdeen / Mahershala Ali as Boggs
Directed by Francis Lawrence / Written by Danny Strong and Peter Craig, based on the book by Suzanne Collins
THE HUNGER GAMES saga finally comes to a climatic close in MOCKINGJAY PART 2, and this final chapter, on one level, certainly ups the ante in terms of action and spectacle apart from its predecessors.
though, some of the more thoughtful exploration of the core themes present
in Suzanne Colin’s literary trilogy have been left behind in the process,
not to mention that, at a hefty 2 hours and 16 minutes, this HUNGER GAMES
entry feels overly padded and desperate to stretch itself out well beyond
what’s required of the overall narrative.
MOCKINGJAY PART 1
– which I mostly liked – still suffered from feeling like a disjointed
effort without a definite beginning middle and end.
PART 2, by direct comparison, feels like one large third act, which
somewhat hurts the film’s momentum and pacing.
There’s so much
unbridled ambition in this film franchise and, to be fair, as a whole
it’s a cut above the pack when it comes to dystopian young adult books
to movie adaptations. Yet, when viewing MOCKINGJAY PART 1 and 2 as a whole now,
it’s more than abundantly clear that the makers here could have easily
truncated both entries into a more more satisfying, succinct, and leaner single film. Taking a page
out of HARRY POTTER, THE HUNGER GAMES franchise opted to remain as
steadfastly faithful to the source material in splitting MOCKINGJAY into
two films, but the move only reinforces more purely financial motivations
than artistic ones. Two films
make more money for the studio, resulting in the parts feeling like a
unified and obvious cash grab for all involved.
MOCKINGJAY PART 2 certainly is as polished looking as any of the
previous films, if not more, and it still greatly benefits from the
remarkably resilient and headstrong presence of Jennifer Lawrence at the
there’s simply not enough compelling story material here to require such
a needlessly long fourth entry here.
MOCKINGJAY PART 2 takes place directly after the events of PART 1, which
also managed to conclude itself on a tantalizing, but somewhat forced
nearly being strangled to death by her former lover, now Capital
brainwashed guinea pig Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss Everdeen
(Lawrence) takes it upon herself to volunteer for a last ditch mission
force to reach the Capital and assassinate the vile and dictatorial
President Snow (Donald Sutherland, oozing low key menace).
The President of the district resistance, Alma Coin (Julianne
Moore) wants to use Katniss more for purely propaganda purposes and less
for militaristic ones. Begrudgingly,
Katniss agrees to Coin’s request, but decides later to go rouge with her
team – comprised of Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick (Sam Claflin), and
Boggs (Mahershala Ali) – to make a secret push towards Snow’s mansion.
To make matters increasingly more tense, Snow has had his men
litter the entire Capital streets with a series of hard to locate booby
traps that could kill Katniss and company in mere seconds.
When Katniss – after a series of near brushes with death – does
finally make her way to the Snow’s headquarters, she begins to realize
that other political forces are conspiring against her that call into
question the very reason why she’s fighting for Panem’s freedom.
MOCKINGJAY PART 2
is essentially a cat and mouse chase film between Snow’s forces and
Katniss’, and on a level of being a fairly well engineered war movie
there’s no question that this entry is effective in that regard.
The entire series has been methodically building towards a climatic
showdown between Snow and Katniss for several films, and there is certain
inherent tension to be had in seeing Katniss and her motley crew of
post-apocalyptic freedom fighters cheat death multiple times.
There’s a particularly intense battle in the darkened and claustrophobic
city sewers, during which time Katniss and her team must
defend themselves from swarms of faceless zombified creatures that want to
eat them. Director Francis Lawrence’s swift and assured handling of such
scenes is commendable, but I did find myself asking too many questions during them…like…um...what are these creatures and where did they come from?
The movie never once provides an answer.
For as many
nail-bitingly frightening and fever pitched sequences like this there are
regrettably far too many other sections of MOCKINGJAY PART 2 that slow
down and take extended breaks to provide some necessary, but mostly
watch-checking exposition, during which time characters explain their
motivations as well as their enemies. I will give the film full credit for at least acknowledging
the subplot elephant in the room that is the love triangle between Gale,
Peeta, and Katiss. Unlike so
many other examples of the young adult genre, MOCKINGJAY PART 2 has the
two young men engaging in a fairly frank and diplomatic talk about their
mutual love for the female hero rather than have the girl endlessly pine
over both of them for their affection.
For as awkward and perfunctory as this love triangle is in the
series (it’s one of its weaker handled elements), at least it reinforces
what a strongly independent minded protagonist Katniss has become.
She has no time for mere boys.
She has a rebellion to lead. Liberating
an entire enslaved nation takes prominence in her mind over bedding one of
her hunky and available male suitors.
TWO careens towards a decently thrilling, yet troublesome climax, during
which time it not only feels oddly rushed (considering the long running
time of the film), but also feels perplexing when it comes to some of the
allegiances and motivations of key characters.
Most of the film is built upon scene after scene of action and
spectacle, which is fine, but then MOCKINGJAY PART 2 wants to engaging in
some eleventh hour sermonizing about the nature of war and the sometimes
vagueness of moral authority and righteousness on both sides.
There’s a twist involving one character that feels more predictably
telegraphed than palpably shocking, and even after that happens the
screenplay struggles with finding secure footing to provide closure to
Katniss’ series spanning struggle.
MOCKINGJAY PART 2 does provide mostly definitive closure to the
saga, but the manner that it sort of haphazardly builds towards said
closure feels somewhat sloppy.
THE HUNGER GAMES
series is, on a whole, not perfect. The
2012 introductory chapter was a
compelling, but wobbly beginning to the franchise. Then came CATCHING
FIRE, one of the most assured and well-engineered sequels of
recent memory that vastly expanded and improved upon its antecedent in so
many ways. MOCKINGJAY PART 1,
despite its faults, propelled the series into some new thematically rich
terrain as to the nature of using propaganda – utilized by forces on
both sides – to sway public opinion (like good sci-fi, the film posed
intriguing questions with real world echoes). MOCKINGJAY PART 2, more than any other entry in the series,
lacks the euphoric sense of discovery of the earlier chapters in its
attempts to take what’s basically a paper thin plot and expand it well
beyond what it should have been. In
an effort to maximize studio profits at the expense of maintaining
storytelling focus and integrity, the bloated and misguided MOCKINGJAY PART 2
only reinforces what a solid HUNGER GAMES trilogy we could have had.
At the very least, Jennifer Lawrence holds up her end of the bargain and dramatically grounds every waking moment of this series – even the more mediocre entries – and makes it so compulsively watchable. Katniss Everdeen makes just about every other female hero in young adult fiction look laughably antiquated. If other future young adult adaptations look to THE HUNGER GAMES for inspiration…then that’s wholeheartedly a good thing.
MY CTV REVIEW: