Film Review – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2
In my review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014), I wrote the following:
“…if its purpose was to make me curious to see what happens in the final entry, I’ll say it did its job”
Now that I’ve seen The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (2015), I take back everything I said previously. Whatever promise was established in the penultimate entry of the Hunger Games saga, the final chapter dashes away. This is – by far – the weakest chapter, a tedious and dour experience that fails to bring its themes together in a satisfying manner. Francis Lawrence (director), along with Peter Craig and Danny Strong (screenplay) adapt the last half of Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay book as though they are dragging their feet to the finish line. They bring the curtain down on this franchise with a whimper instead of a bang.
The issue of expanding one book into two films was noticeable in Mockingjay Part 1, but comes to full fruition here. The narrative is padded with incessant dialogue, continuously harping on the same themes we’ve heard over and over again. Yes, the Capitol and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) are evil and must be taken down. Yes, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has been designated as the “Mockingjay”, the mascot of the rebellion who must be protected at all costs. These ideas were set way early, and yet none of it has developed to anything substantial. The characters are all bark and no bite.
For a series that is advertised as sci-fi action, it was ironic to see just how little action there was. The last time we saw Katniss, she was being attacked by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who was brainwashed by the Capitol to hold a deathly rage against her. Does this turn out to be important? Not really. In fact it’s troubling how easily the screenplay wipes away Peeta’s clearly unstable mental condition. But there are more pressing matters at hand. Now, under the leadership of Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the rebellion laces up their bootstraps to hurtle a massive assault against President Snow and free the districts of Panem once and for all. What’s Katniss’ role in this? She gets the honor of sitting in the back and filming even more propaganda with Cressida (Natalie Dormer) and her crew.
I don’t think I’ve seen a hero/heroine with so little to do. Katniss is made to be the most important person of the rebellion, yet she doesn’t do much in terms of actual work. She’s really good at looking around with desperation and horror, or giving a perfectly timed speech. But when it comes to contributing to the cause, she’s merely an observer. The promise of action is put into place and then disregarded with a convenient plot contrivance. Heck, what’s the point of being so great with a bow and arrow if you barely use it? After awhile, I was more interested in the background characters, at least they’re able to get out into the field and do something. I suppose the frustration of seeing Katniss held back for propaganda purposes is further developed in the novel, but we’re not talking about the novel right now. On screen, this element is thin at best, and doesn’t pay off dramatically.
There is…so…much…talking. Characters speechify endlessly. Even as Katniss and her team – including the hunky Gale (Liam Hemsworth) – infiltrate the Capitol toward President Snow, they stop repeatedly so characters can talk in overabundant exposition. They run into a booby trap, and then they talk. They get chased in the sewers, and then they talk. They get into a bloody battle, and then they talk. Talk, talk, talk. I’d hate to see how long it would take them to decide what to eat for dinner. Everybody has an opinion and expresses it in a monologue. What’s worse is that none of it is revelatory or interesting, but acts as filler to bump up the runtime to an ungodly 137 minutes.
Francis Lawrence does not lend much support in the direction. The cinematography (by Jo Willems) incorporates a flat approach. Colors are washed out, lending to a dreary overall tone. Action scenes (whatever few they are) are portrayed with such limpness that it barely registers any thrills. This isn’t to say that the style is incompetent, but it is certainly uninspired. Technically, everything feels done by the book, with no creativity to keep us glued in. One set piece has Katniss and friends being chased by a roaring oil spill. What’s supposed to be a standout, suspenseful moment arrives then exits and is entirely forgotten about. The same can be said about the movie in general.
It seems so long ago that Katniss ran around in the jungle trying to survive the Hunger Games. Her situation in a full-fledged war leaves her out of the driver’s seat, a victim of circumstance who just happens to be in the right place at the right time (or in the wrong place at the wrong time, depending on how you look at it). At its very worst, Mockingjay Part 2 merely wants to get everything over and done with, we can see the exhaustion emanating off the screen – a final exclamation point to a series that has run out of gas.