The Hunger Games pulled a Harry Potter last year, maximizing profits by splitting the final book in Suzanne Collins’ series into two pictures. When Mockingjay—Part 1 was released last year, the momentum established in 2013’s Catching Fire was erased by heavy exposition and general story-throttling in order to fill two sequels.
Part 1 was dull, but it did promise a war zone grand finale. Mockingjay—Part 2 is finally here, and it’s nearly as inert as its predecessor, once again straining to transform a wafer-thin story into a nearly five-hour combined viewing experience.
Photo courtesy of Lionsgate
Even Katniss grows fidgety as
Mockingjay—Part 2 takes extended
breaks between the action.
Recovering from injuries and checking in with her poisoned pal, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is now more determined than ever to charge into the Capitol and assassinate President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
With President Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his final film role before his death) eager to retain Katniss’ services as an icon for propaganda efforts, the young archer is ready to take command of her own life.
Facing the challenge of Capitol infiltration, attempting to evade numerous booby traps, Katniss is joined by Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick (Sam Claflin), and Peeta, who’s trying to overcome his urge to kill Katniss as the unit attempts the unthinkable, while Snow watches on with delight.
Part 2 is supposed to be the war movie, but director Francis Lawrence and screenwriters Peter Craig and Danny Strong fail to follow through on their promise. Instead of calling down the thunder, the production mostly remains in a state of reflection, as battle strategies are worked out and power plays assessed.
Even Katniss grows fidgety with the delay, running away from her leadership duties to take on the enemy, soon joined by characters from the last three pictures.
Part 2 picks up exactly where Part 1 left off, but the build towards something bigger never arrives. The plot once again explores Katniss’ feelings for Peeta and Gale, Snow’s malevolent ways, and the chaos of Panem, which has resulted in a fledgling resistance.
The big addition to Part 2 is time inside the Capitol, which is littered with deadly booby traps. There’s a flood of hot oil, quick-draw machine guns, and a sewer system filled with ferocious mutants (the origin of these creatures is never shared).
The promise of adventure soon dims with the realization that the production is going to take extended breaks between challenges, diluting the promise of one last Hunger Games for these weary characters.
Much of Part 2 is spent waiting for events to happen, with a sizable portion of the middle act devoted to the gang holing up inside an abandoned apartment, monitoring news broadcasts and fatiguing the effort when it has a golden opportunity to generate blistering action and accentuate deepest fears as betrayals mount and impossible personal loss arrives.
Part 2 feels like a missed opportunity, though many of its faults appear to originate from Collins’ unenthusiastically received novel. Lawrence doesn’t challenge the material, and the split-movie approach labors over banality instead of trimming it.
Obviously, the Hunger Games fan base is concrete, and Jennifer Lawrence is the only actor in the group to grasp an interior life, playing Katniss as a cautious open wound, gradually understanding how power games in Panem are truly played. She’s fantastic in the movie, providing the final chapter with an emotional closure that the director never gets around to.
Mockingjay—Part 2 eventually goes for operatic scenes of upheaval in its third act, but there’s no reason why such theatricality isn’t spread around the entire picture. The first two chapters were ripe with discovery and feral survival instincts, but as the stakes are raised to include the fate of an entire world, the remaining sequels fail to respect such escalation.
Maybe The Hunger Games isn’t actually over (Lionsgate has threatened to produce prequels and sequels), but its heart stopped beating long ago.