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Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

Premise: The final entry in the Hunger Games series. Immediately following the events of Mockingjay – Part 1, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) continues to unite the districts against the capital and eventually sets her sights on President Snow (Donald Sutherland). 

What Works: The Hollywood tent pole marketplace is saturated with dystopian stories in which the world is pushed into upheaval and a chosen one leads the dispossessed masses to revolt against the establishment. The Hunger Games series is a part of that trend but it is also distinguished from it. This series delivered the action, adventure, and romance that make a story like this entertaining but at the same time it has had a smart and subversive self-awareness of its genre. Katniss was never really a messiah figure; she was a celebrity manufactured by the establishment media and she uses that public image against the Panem elites. Mockingjay – Part 2 continues that intelligent political aspect of the Hunger Games series. The conflict of Panem is a civil war in which an insurgent revolutionary movement intends to overthrow and replace the older order. In most movies like this, such as the original Star Wars trilogy and the Lord of the Rings, the conflict is straightforward and clearly defined; one side is good, the other side is bad, and there is little or no equivocation between them. The Hunger Games series has had something to say about the power of political iconography and the slippery ethics of revolution and the final instalment continues these themes. The fact that the Hunger Games series not only plays on storytelling conventions but integrates those self-reflexive qualities into the mechanics of the plot and character development has elevated the series above a lot of similar stories.

What Doesn’t: As the last instalment of an epic series, Mockingjay – Part 2 needs to provide a sufficient pay off to the events of the previous three movies. This film falls short of that. A lot of Mockingjay – Part 2 feels like more of the same and the action set pieces aren’t as interesting as those of the previous Hunger Games movies. Some of the traps are so big that they aren’t visually credible, especially the deluge of oil that floods city streets at one point, and the fake-looking creatures that attack Katniss and company is the sewers look like they belong in a Resident Evil movie. Even a lot of the key performers seem to be phoning it in; Jennifer Lawrence looks bored throughout a lot of the movie, even in the midst of the action sequences, and her love triangle with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is not interesting at all. This may be a result of a more fundamental problem for Mockingjay – Part 2. This movie does not have enough plot to fill its running time. The final book in Suzanne Collins’ young adult series was split into two movies and while the first film had enough story to fill out a feature film, the second half does not and the movie features a lot of padding including multiple conclusions and an extended coda sequence in the very end. The trouble is that much of this padding is unnecessary. There are new story developments in Mockingjay – Part 2 that require much deeper exploration than they are given here. Katniss starts to distrust rebel leader President Coin (Julianne Moore) and she suspects that the new order will be as bad as the old order. That leads to some potentially compelling developments in the relationship between Katniss and President Snow. As it is, the most interesting relationship of the Hunger Games series is not the love story between Katniss and Gale and Peeta but the adversarial relationship between Katniss and Snow and Coin. The filmmakers fail to do anything interesting with that conflict and so the Hunger Games series comes to an underwhelming conclusion.

Bottom Line: Mockingjay – Part 2 is comparable to 1973’s Battle for the Planet of the Apes. It wraps up everything and brings the Hunger Games series to a conclusion but it’s an inauspicious finale. This series has ranged from good to outstanding but the conclusion is limp and uninspired.

Episode: #571 (November 29, 2015)