Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2
PLOT: Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and her allies, including friends Gale (Liam Hemsworth) & Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), sneak behind enemy lines in order to put a stop to President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) reign once and for all.
REVIEW: Has splitting the final installment of a series into two films ever worked on a level beyond the financial? Sure, the financial success of BREAKING DAWN PART 1 & 2, HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 & 2 helped start a trend where franchise producers were able to eke an extra movie out of a franchise that’s nearly done, but the result is always the same. The first film is uneventful and boring, while the second feels like a inanely drawn out climax. This was especially damaging to the Potter films, which always maintained a high level of quality, and along the same lines it’s also tainted THE HUNGER GAMES series.
While the box office coffers will certainly be just as full as ever, did even the most devoted fans think MOCKINGJAY PART 1 was any good? At over two hours it felt terribly bloated, with so much exposition and talk, and next to no action for its main heroine, Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss, who remained shockingly passive throughout. In that regard, MOCKINGJAY PART 2 is an improvement as this time Katniss gets to do a little more than mope around, with her at least getting in on the action somewhat. But, running a bloated 130 minutes (a lot considering it’s only really half-a-movie), MOCKINGJAY PART 2 still feels like a desperate attempt to keep a franchise going rather than a full-on film. MOCKINGJAY could have easily been one really good 2.5 hour film rather than two only okay ones that add up to over four hours.
Even still, MOCKINGJAY PART 2 is certainly a must-see for fans of the series, and worth watching on the merits of Jennifer Lawrence’s performance alone. It’s no fluke that this series has made Lawrence one of the biggest stars on the planet, and she cuts an iconic figure and the increasingly battle-weary Katniss. She’s grown a lot since the fresh-faced teen she was in THE HUNGER GAMES, and her performance is a star-turn in the true sense of the term. To his credit, director Francis Lawrence seems well-aware of that fact, and Lawrence is rarely off-screen. Josh Hutcherson also fares particularly well, with Peeta having the most interesting arc. At the end of the last film, he tried to kill Katniss by wringing her neck and here Peeta is only modestly reformed, with his brainwashing by Snow’s goons threatening to kick-in at any moment – making him the perfect weapon for Julianne Moore’s Alma Coin, who may wind-up being just as bad as Snow. Liam Hemsworth doesn’t fare quite as well, with Gale still being a rather dull and two-dimensional character. The conclusion sets up a kind of moral vagueness to the character Hemsworth isn’t quite able to convey, but some of this may be due to the material rather than his performance.
With much of the film having been shot two years ago, there’s something bittersweet about seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman on-screen in his final feature role, with Plutarch Heavensbee having a relatively solid role in the proceedings. Previous franchise players like Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci have little more than cameos here, while Jena Malone has a handful of good scenes opposite Lawrence – a good thing as the two play off each other extremely well.
One frustrating thing about the saga is how – despite the billions it’s raked in – the films still seem rather modest in scope. While not in 3D, the movie had a rather dull, dark look, and some of this seems to be a ploy to cover up some less-than-awesome CGI. There are a handful of decent action scenes, with the traps laid out around the city by Snow’s minions leading to some rather ghoulish deaths for a PG-13 teen movie, but the formula becomes a tad stale as it goes on.
While not up to the standards of the first two films (the second – CATCHING FIRE – remains the best all-around entry), MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 is superior to its predecessor and solid enough that fans will no doubt flock to this in droves as they usually do. In the end, THE HUNGER GAMES has proven to be a good series, although it can’t be denied the films could have been much better had they been kept as a trilogy and more money put in to the CGI. But, as a launching pad for Jennifer Lawrence, the saga has done its job and then some!
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