by Jacob SullivanIf one was to marathon all the Hunger Games films in order, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 would come off as a fitting and exciting finale to the saga, but on its own, the franchise finale is poorly paced, boring and overwhelmingly mediocre. With the exception of a few decently exciting action sequences and a cramped third act, the concluding film is remarkably slow and languid. The film fails to gain momentum or consistently enthrall the viewer, suffering from a mostly lifeless first act that could have played out much quicker and long pauses between the action.
Splitting the final book of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy into two films has served to be the downfall of both Mockingjay Part 1 and 2. The first part acted as one large placeholder, with minimal action and very little progress in the story. Part 2 may contain more action and bring the story to a close, but it remains padded out, with most of the story progress occurring in the last act. The poor pacing could have been resolved if the two films has been mashed into one, but as it stands, both parts only show why splitting the final book in a popular trilogy into two films is a bad idea. While it makes sense as an easy way to boost the box office potential of a beloved series, the decision has served to be the finale’s largest misstep.
For the uninitiated, there isn’t much of a point in watching Mockingjay – Part 2. The film makes no effort to catch viewers up, as most plot points and dramatic moments bank on the fact that the viewer has seen the earlier films in the series. Beginning directly where the third film ended, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is now the leader of a revolution against the oppressive government led by President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Katniss and her team of rebels must battle their way into the Capitol to bring the war to an end. Long gone is the simplistic, yet continuously exciting gladiatorial setup in which kids kill kids in a game of survival. The saga has now become a war drama: A war drama that, giving credit where credit is due, deals with some very weighty themes of power, corruption, Machiavellian politics and death. The saga had dealt with these topics in the past, but not to the the same degree at which they’re tackled in Mockingjay – Part 2. While some of the dialogue may address the hefty topics in a heavy-handed way (e.g. “It’s war, Katniss. Sometimes killing isn’t personal.”), the film’s willingness to discuss these topics at all is refreshing.
Mockingjay – Part 2, and the whole series for that matter, benefits from its phenomenal cast, even if it is under utilized in the series finale. Veteran actors like Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman inject their archetypal characters with much more life than they would have possessed had they been portrayed by less experienced performers. Sutherland, most noticeably, seems to be really enjoying himself as the evil President Snow, chewing up the scenery with an arrogant smile any chance he gets. However, several actors are not allotted enough screen time to make an impact. Most characters come on screen to make a quick bow of sorts before the film’s ending. For example, Haymitch (Harrelson), who has been an important character since film one, appears maybe twice before quickly exiting. In a film with so much dead space, it’s perplexing to see so many talented actors and the important characters they play fail be given the proper amount of time they deserve.Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, on the other hand, carries the whole film. We spend the majority of the time with her, and by this point, Lawrence fully embodies the character. Displaying fragility, strength and many other contrasting feelings, Lawrence relays most of Katniss’s inner struggles through her face and body language. Katniss’s complex emotional hangups were told through inner monologue in the novels, but luckily, director Francis Lawrence allows Jennifer Lawrence to show these emotions without such an insistent tactic.
While the dead spaces in-between may be an issue, the action itself is handled well. Francis Lawrence has directed the saga since the franchise’s second entry, Catching Fire, and under his guidance, the action has been consistently solid. Action scenes are suspenseful, fast and well shot. Lawrence’s talent with suspenseful action is most notable during the film’s sewer fight. As our heroes fight The Descent-like monsters called “mutts,” Lawrence makes use of the claustrophobic tunnels in the sewer, using shots similar to those of Alien, creating a scene that is exciting and honestly scary. Outside of the sewer scene (which may be the highlight of the film), the remaining action scenes are high octane and engaging as well.
But for all its faults, Mockingjay – Part 2 is a fitting conclusion to the Hunger Games series (a series that has proven to be better than expected, setting the standard for the young adult film adaptations that followed). Mockingjay – Part 2 gives resolution to its long suffering characters, ties up loose ends, makes its final points on themes and concepts, and provides long awaited emotional payoffs. The most emotional film in the saga, Part 2 sees the characters reflecting and coming to terms with their journey, and what they have lost. While it may be weak on its own, the film is a capable and satisfying finale.
3 out of 5 stars