Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutchinson, Julianne Moore
Spoilers Within: Yes
Film 11 – #93 in ‘The Hard Drive Randomiser’
If you’ve come this far in the franchise, you already know what to expect: Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen faced with numerous physically and mentally draining challenges, surmounting each and every one with reluctance in order to achieve her objective: kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland), and restore order to Panem. Where The Hunger Games set up the titular deathsport, Catching Fire shattered the games in a most literal sense, and Mockingjay Part 1 advanced the rebellious revolt in the franchise’s best installment, Mockingjay Part 2 concludes with an overcrowded, banal and unsatisfying end.
Picking up where Part 1 left us: Katniss is reeling from the sudden attack by a brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), the Victors of the previous games have been freed from the Tribute Centre, and military strategies have been put in place for the rebellions’ attack on the Capitol. This set-up, even as a direct continuation, took a significant amount of time to get going, which is one of the fundamental issues of Part 2: where it should have been 30 minutes shorter to omit the sluggish exposition, it instead repeated much of what has been said before. Although the separate parts were released one year apart, it’s a bizarre move on the writer’s part to assume that most viewers would need a recap, rather than watching them as an expected double-feature once released on home media. These constant pauses in narrative to remind us what has already been said brings the action to an abrupt stop, which then commits the sin that no action movie – adaptation or not – should: it becomes boring.
A large chunk of the second act (and part of the third) revolves around Katniss and the rebellion making it through the District toward Snow’s palace; along the way meeting new and old friends (both necessary and superfluous), and falling victim to various, improbable traps, or “pods”. These parts is where the film lost me: conveniently placed traps whittle down the rebellion simply confirms how villainous the Capitol are. Most of the victims are pure cannon fodder (who the hell were those silent twins?), and rather than hit hard with any emotion, they put emphasis on how ludicrously convenient the film becomes as they make their way through a tidal wave of oil; a corridor of fatally-scorching lights; and worst of all: an underground system filled with blind, I Am Legend-esque mutants. These traps were great fun when in the arena of the games – and though the technology to create and use them exists within the universe – enclosed in the city walls they’re just daft.
The script doesn’t fare much better. While it was never a shining component of any of them, it’s clunkiness here is more perceptible, in part due to the repetitive reminders, and also because it’s as though the majority of the cast – Philip Seymour Hoffman not included – were just going through the motions of their characters to finish their term. Conversation constantly seems stilted, whether coming from the bland extras there to propel Katniss’ cause, or from the exhausting Katniss-Peeta-Gale love-triangle. I understand it’s an adaptation of a young-adult novel and that these characters have existed in the entire franchise, but it’s so monotonous and will-they-won’t-they-of-course-they-will that it’s just another mundane factor in a generally mundane film.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is further proof that splitting a single story from one film into two doesn’t work in the grand scheme of the narrative. This happened with The Hobbit (unfathomably split into three parts) and Twilight franchises and is soon to be the case with the final instalment of the Divergent series. When a story is essentially wrapped up in one film, all that remains is the finality of the plot: seeking a means to an end while attempting to keep the excitement and the passion that the previous chapters spent so long creating. The biggest problem with Part 2 – the unequivocal low-point of the The Hunger Games series – aside from all of the above is that it misspends its empathy in the wrong moments, so by the cloyingly sentimental finale, it’s more of a disappointment than a rewarding, deserved conclusion.