Directed by Francis Lawrence. Produced by Nina Jacobson and Jon Kilik. Written by Danny Strong and Peter Craig. Release date: November 20, 2015.
The long-awaited finale to the Hunger Games franchise has finally hit cinemas, and it’s a shame to report that not only is it not good, but it’s the worst film of the series. Yes, the final film of The Hunger Games – the one that we’re going to remember the clearest – is the worst, and, therefore, will likely negatively color our view of the property, which up to this point had a pretty good track record.
Even though there is a precedent set for the “Part 2” installments of split-up book adaptations to be the best of their franchises – Harry Potter and Twilight both had this happen – perhaps we should have expected Mockingjay – Part 2 to be a disappointment. The book itself was the least liked of the franchise by both fans and critics, the first half already stretched the plot thin, and it started to put a greater focus on the love triangle between three of its characters. Part 2 has those problems and more, serving as a disappointing conclusion and a poor standalone movie.
For those not caught up, we begin Mockingjay – Part 2 ready for our rebel heroes to finally storm the castle and take back the Capitol from the oppressive President Snow (Donald Sutherland). The symbol of the rebellion, and one of its driving forces, is Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who has served as the audience’s protagonist through three previous films. She is maybe in love with two different guys: Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who was kidnapped and brainwashed by the Capitol and now hates Katniss, and Gale (Liam Hemsworth), her hunting buddy from her home District.
After lots of sitting around and talking about things the audience has understood for quite a long time – they need to do this in order to make the film reach feature length – Katniss and a group of other soldiers head into the bombed-out city – where have I seen something else like that? – which Snow has booby trapped to the point where there’s a danger literally lying around every corner. The traps were created by previous Gamemakers, which means that this storm of the castle has similarities to earlier versions of the Hunger Games. In case it’s too subtle for you, the film ensures that you hear “Welcome to the 76th Hunger Games.” Subtlety is not this franchise’s strong suit.
It is refreshing to see a lot of themes – and relevant themes, at that – being touched upon in a young adult adaptation. War, terrorism, media manipulation, dictatorship, and PTSD all get a great deal of focus, with the film’s eventual findings unlikely to surprise anyone over the age of 12. But it more frequently that not feels so heavy-handed with the way it handles them that it’s hard to take seriously. It gets tiresome and it gets silly.
The worst of the Hunger Games movies and an incredible disappointment, Mockingjay – Part 2 ends the franchise on a whimper, not a bang.
There are approximately three good scenes in Mockingjay – Part 2, all of which happen within this portion of the film. The group has to escape from some evil oil, ghoulish creatures – that just so happen to be located in a subway system and are totally not zombies, you guys – and … actually, those are the only entertaining parts of the film. I did say that “three” was an approximation, didn’t I? These two action beats are exciting and tense, something the majority of the film lacks. Most of Mockingjay – Part 2 has the characters sitting around and biding time, which makes it feel like it’s seven hours long. Unfortunately, when we get to any parts that either are good or could potentially be good, we rush through them with a full head of steam, as if the filmmakers can’t wait to get to the next sit-down-and-talk scene. Or maybe it just feels that way because of how poor the pacing is.
Take, for instance, all of the important character deaths in this film. They happen in a flash and then we move on, barely referencing them until the time has passed where it makes any difference. The biggest “shock” of a character death has all of its potential emotional resonance robbed from it because of the way that it’s been crafted by these filmmakers. Director Francis Lawrence made the best Hunger Games movie with Catching Fire, but he’s also made the worst two with both Mockingjay films.
Even Jennifer Lawrence, so good in the first two installments, frequently looks bored in this chapter. Oh, she gets a couple of requisite “emotion” scenes, but, for the most part, appears to be biding her time, just like I was, waiting for it to come to an end. Her greatest scene – and perhaps the biggest burst of emotion in the entire series – would have been so effective had she not been paired with the cat equivalent of Janice from accounting, which turns an otherwise heartbreaking scene into comedy.
Tack on two problems that came from the book – a plot twist that makes thematic sense but comes across in the movie like yet another way to pad the running time – and its epilogue. The twist steals away Mockingjay – Part 2‘s greatest opportunity at granting the audience catharsis, but at least it does make sense. The epilogue, on the other hand, ruins what could have been a rather sweet ending and gives us one of the most stupid scenes of the entire year. I wish that were a joke, but this is beyond comprehensibility. How anyone could look at this and say “this is the perfect way to end the series” is beyond me.
The worst of the Hunger Games movies and an incredible disappointment, Mockingjay – Part 2 ends the franchise on a whimper, not a bang. Not even obvious Fallout parallels can save this film – and no, I’m not just totally obsessed with Fallout 4 and seeing it everywhere. It struggles to add much value at all to the series, existing as an obligation and little more. It doesn’t have much action, it robs itself of most of its potential to give audiences emotionally resonating scenes, it stretches an already thin plot thinner, and it has the single most bafflingly stupid final scene in a movie all year. What a shame.
Bottom Line: Mockingjay – Part 2 is a terrible way to end what was a pretty good franchise.
Recommendation: If you’ve already made it through three of these, you owe it to yourself to see it through. If you haven’t? I honestly don’t know anymore if it’s worth even starting.[rating=2]