Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

The Hunger Games saga seems to have been around forever. Trying to think back to when I first saw Jennifer Lawrence arrive on the big screen as Katniss Everdean, fighting for her life, in the opening salvo of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, it seems like a life time ago. Apparently, it’s only been 4 years, but it’s reached such a saturation point that I would have sworn it was longer.

I remember that opening movie well because I had turned my nose up to it for a long time (it was teenage dystopian nonsense after all) but watching it, it provided so much more, and me so wrong. It sucked me in and, while it pre-dates the reviews on this blog, won me over with the deep emotive messages it so easily conveyed. It felt real and scary, had me panicked and on the edge of my seat. Yes, it’s teenage dystopian nonsense, but it is nonsense about characters I inexplicably came to care about. I wanted them to be safe. So when Catching Fire arrived I was expecting a lot, only to be left disappointed by a film that felt beyond the “difficult second album”  and instead appeared disjointed and unconnected to the level or depth and empathy the first film had created.

The Hunger Games Trilogy (Books) - Suzanne Collins

As with so many franchise films these days, the “ending” has split in too for what seems primarily commercial reasons (e.g. Harry Potter, and even The Hobbit went from two films to three) and to extend the trilogy, the third Hunger Games Book – Mockingjay has also been split. Part 1, was essentially talking, nothing but a lot of talking. I remember watching it, wishing something to happen and then declaring in my review “that while it truly is nothing but setup, dragged out way beyond it’s means, it isn’t fair to really condemn it until it’s married up to Mockingjay – Part 2.”

As a result, I have been looking forward to Mockingjay – Part 2 all year. In my mind, Part 1 set the scene, so Part 2 should bring the action and while that is the rough structure it’s not entirely true. The film certainly does contain the action much missed previously but it’s only there in fits and spurts and never with any real depth. The entire story is very shallow worse still, the tone of the film is a complete mess. To try and hide the one-dimensional plot, the style, and emotions, the film gives off swing wildly about. This meant that I was never able to relax into the film. I would never feel anything inside, have any connect, because no one single idea or theme is ever allowed to grow. I sat there being taken on a meandering ride as nothing more than a viewer.

Josh Hutcherson & Jennifer Lawrence - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

A lot of debate surrounds Lawrence in the title role, how she is portraying a character suffering with PTSD and that is why, often, she seems distance and removed from centre stage. For me, I felt she showed no signs of PTSD and plenty of boredom. She looked tired of the franchise, and the character, and too often appeared to just be calling in the performance. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta appears far more psychology scared but this is glossed over and almost forgotten about in a way that not only defies belief and lowers the plausibility of the film, but  felt like that film was slapping me round the face with a sense contempt that lingers throughout the entire second half in a view uneasy way.

Even worse though is how the rest of the cast are virtually ignored. Liam Hemsworth is pushed completely to one side, ending up as almost the forgotten man. While Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland and Jeffrey Wright appear to only be included because they are contractually obliged. Take out their characters and the movie wouldn’t be missing anything. Julianne Moore feels stronger as a leader than she did in Part 1, but again, she’s background noise in a narrative arc that you see coming a mile off.

My biggest problem with the film is just how far removed from anything that has gone before it is. I will accept, that every sequel has taken a step away from the original. Losing the human connection, the personality and characters, that made it a commentary on real life, on human existence. But Mockingjay – Part 2 reaches a level so far removed from that sense of humanity that sucked me in, and so close to nothing more than fictional fantasy, that it felt like it had no connection at all. This descent from into the realms of impossible stupidity arrives almost without warning and while I won’t spoil it by saying exactly how it happens the swing from real to fake, is so vivid and unnecessary that I just gave up caring when it happened as it was obvious the franchise had given up on trying to regain the strengths that had made it in the first place.

Jennifer Lawrence - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

The last complaint is the fact the film doesn’t know when to end. It suffers the fate of taking, one, more, step, than it really needs. It reaches the point where its story is told, I’d mentally switched off, parted company from the characters To me, their story was done. Yet it kept on going. It would come back for one more scene. And then one more again. It was made more infuriating by the fact it’s not even trying to tie up loose ends, it’s just filler and padding, for not needed reason.

I really hoped that Mockingjay Part 2 would send the franchise out with a big bang and it didn’t. It felt too many steps removed in tone, style and message from the original film. It just continued the slow, drawn out, decline of a once interesting story. As a stand alone film, it has a few enjoyable moments and you can’t ignore that it is a big budget, modern action film which is put together well, but it doesn’t bring anything new or exciting even when looked at that simply. Watch any recent franchise film (especially the Marvel films) and you will get the same. I think in the future, The Hunger Games franchise as a whole will be viewed as a series of films, where you just need to watch the first because, after that, they don’t offer enough to command the investment.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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