Movie Review: The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2

Nothing like a few gigantic rapid-fire movie releases to get you blogging again. I couldn’t let this series go without a lengthy review, of course.

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Starring:
Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore, Natalie Dormer
Director:
Francis Lawrence (Constantine, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1)
Rating: M
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I feel a little conflicted when it comes to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II. Every movie adaptation mega-saga has to end, and now The Hunger Games has joined that club. The second half of Suzanne Collins‘ bestselling finale novel Mockingjay has completed its transition to the big screen, and I have a funny feeling the lasting impact of this film will divide opinions just as much, if not more, than that sucker punch of a book did back in 2010.

Filmgoers who haven’t delved into Collins‘ vehemently anti-war pages will likely find themselves a little shocked at how depressing this final chapter can get, even despite the film’s much higher action emphasis than that of its predecessor, Mockingjay Part I. Meanwhile those who have read the trilogy may find that, despite some crucial scenes that don’t quite land in the same way they did on paper, Francis Lawrence‘s closing vision for this wildly popular series successfully achieves what it needs to.

Things move quickly from the very beginning of Mockingjay Part II. If Part I was all about setting dominoes in place and building tension then this film is defined by the release of that tension – often in violent and downright ugly ways. From start to finish, the spectre of war hangs over Jennifer Lawrence‘s now well-renowned protagonist Katniss Everdeen, and it’s just waiting to crush her into the dust.

The story follows Katniss even tighter than in any of the previous movies, concerning itself only briefly with the strategic movements and bloody uprisings around her. And for the most part this is a good creative decision, because Lawrence is amazing in the role – perhaps better than she’s ever been. Katniss goes through a very wide range of emotions in this dehumanising part of her story to say the least, some of them more difficult to showcase than others, and Lawrence deftly handles all the rage, the defiance, the devastation.

However, this sharply focused lens also takes away from some of the biggest, most impactful moments from the novel. Readers will likely go into the movie with one pivotal scene at the front of their minds, but on screen that scene only comes across as confusing and rushed, bereft of the sense of dread and foreshadowing that Collins originally gave it because too much of that potential time is used on the lead. The scene’s immediate fallout differs from the book as well, especially in how it treats its architect. And then there is the very final sequence of shots, which are just laughably awful in their execution. Really it’s difficult to elaborate on any of this without significantly spoiling things for newcomers, so I’ll leave it at that.

Luckily, Mockingjay Part II does deliver some stunning individual moments to make up for those it misses. An early scene featuring an evacuating hostage is a sizzling highlight, Katniss’ final public act as the titular Mockingjay is masterfully staged and if you were one of those people wondering where all the action went in the last movie, this one essentially makes up for it, with brutal sci-fi sequences and thrilling chases packed into the middle third. One of these in particular feels pulled from a different movie genre altogether, building suspense into outright horror before exploding into the single coolest fight sequence this series has probably ever seen.

Whenever one of Katniss’ allies or enemies is given brief attention, he or she tends to command the screen, such is the talent on display here. The Hunger Games movies have always been notable for their performance quality across the board, and the impressive returning cast does not disappoint. Particularly notable here is a simmering near-monologue from Jena Malone as the battered Johanna Mason, the cold and calculated delivery of Julianne Moore as President Coin and the increased presence of Natalie Dormer as the choreographer-turned-freedom-fighter Cressida.

It’s a shame, then, that the two most prominent male leads of the series are subjected to the same studio marketing BS that they were in Catching Fire two years ago. Both Liam Hemsworth‘s Gale and Josh Hutcherson‘s Peeta, otherwise very well portrayed, are forced back into the extraneous so-called “love-triangle” charade that Mockingjay Part I seemed to do so well at reconciling, going blatantly against the grain of the morose story around them in admittedly brief scenes that stick out like sore thumbs and add next to nothing to the thrust of the narrative.

When all is said and done, Suzanne Collins has just about done it. Her elaborate anti-war vision in YA novel clothing has made it relatively cleanly onto the big screen, thanks largely to director Francis Lawrence, a talented behind-the-scenes crew and one hell of a cast. This final cinematic chapter struggles in places, but nonetheless hurtles rapidly towards a conclusion that gets its sombre message across loud and clear, all bloodied and bruised from the effort. Mockingjay Part II is certainly no Return of the King or Deathly Hallows Part 2, but it’s a powerful note to end on nonetheless, and if you’ve followed the saga up to this point, there’s absolutely no reason you should hold out on seeing it.

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THE VERDICT

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Good: Strong action sequences, stronger performances, nails tone once again
Bad: Some crucial scenes falter, dumb love triangle emphasis
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515/110A M A Z I N G

One response to this post.

  1. I just went to watch this film with husband last night, and although I thoroughly enjoyed it, he just wasn’t satisfied. After some discussion we decided we didn’t like the ending. There was no sacrifice or redemption it seemed to us. Although there is an anti-war theme through the trilogy, it seemed a little bit inconsistent for (SPOILER ALERT) Katniss to kill Coin in order to end the war. I almost feel like a more satisfying ending would be if she went up to Snow and gave him the arrow or something. All the characters remained essentially the same. The only redemptive character was Prim- the little scared girl grew up and lost her life for the sake of others. But there was hardly any emphasis on that…

    Thanks for this post! Great fun reading! Completely agree about the stupid love triangle…

    Reply

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