Breaking up the final book in a series into two movies instead of one seems all the rage these days. It started with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows being broken up into two 2+ hour films and then continued with the Twilight series becoming two sub 2 hour Breaking Dawn films. From what I’ve been told by book readers; for Harry Potter it was okay for the final book to be broken up over two films due to its content–not so much for Breaking Dawn. Is breaking up a book into two films more of an artistic decision to tell better tell the story that’s in the book? Or is it just another way for studios to grab money
These two questions aside, I’m always for more movie if it’s going to end up telling a better story. Which brings us to one of the top blockbusters of 2015; the final movie in The Hunger Games series: Mockingjay Part 2. Unlike Star Wars’s episodes or films in a trilogy or series, movies broken up into parts have the distinct disadvantage of being one really long movie with a really long intermission. They’re not two separate self-contained movies. They’re both parts of one movie. Which is why judging one-half without the context of the other half is difficult to do.
When we last saw Katniss, she had just been nearly strangled by her former District 12 Tribute turned Capitol propaganda speaker Peeta at the end of Mockingjay Part 1. Part 2 dives right in where we left off and hits the ground running with both Katniss and Peeta continuing to be used as tools of the war machine. Katniss, still the reluctant leader, is anxious to be fighting out on the front lines with the people that she is supposed to be rallying rather than just posing for more political propaganda pieces.
Mockingjay Part 2 continues the theme of war and propaganda that was started in Part 1 with the machinations of District 13 President Alma Coin and gamesmaker turned rebel war consultant Plutarch Heavensbee; but also puts a different spin on it in Part 2 with the inclusion of questions about war and who the enemy really is. Katniss questions whether or not Capitol loyalists from the Districts are the enemy of the rebels when they are in fact District citizens. She also questions whether it’s right to kill people who may in fact not be their enemy. And in a move that nearly kills her, she questions the rebel cause when she defends their enemy when it appears as if they are surrendering.
While I’m glad to see that some of the bigger themes from the book made it into the film, things don’t really pick up until we get to the action in the Capitol; where defying direct orders from President Coin, Katniss tries to go on a rogue mission to kill President Snow. If you’ve seen the trailers this is the part in the film where a majority of the city is laid with Hunger Games like traps for the rebels to wade through. As expected, the traps that are set are grand, over the top, and especially deadly.
As Katniss and her squad progress through the Capitol, their numbers are slowly diminished as they encounter trap after trap. Fellow comrades are mourned, more propaganda is spread, and the burden of being some big savior of the rebellion continues to build on Katniss’s shoulders even when they are mere steps from achieving their objective. Without giving the ending away, let’s just say people live and people die and that where Katniss eventually ends up is sort of befitting of what she’s been put through throughout the entire series.
All the actors that you know and love from the first three films are back. Obviously JLaw is front and center as Katniss with Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark and Baby Thor Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthrone–the other two sides of the angsty love triangle. Lawrence is solid as always, though she doesn’t have as much heavy lifting (acting-wise) that she did in the first two films in the series. She does have a moment here or there where she is required to emote, but it’s nothing really overly dramatic. A bad day for her would still be better acting than what we see in a majority of other films. Hutcherson on the other hand had me convinced that he was damaged goods as the tortured and brainwashed Peeta. So much so that I never fully believed that he was actually getting better. I was just waiting for him to go all Manchurian Candidate on Katniss at some point when she or I was least expecting it. The two heavy Oscar hitters Julianne Moore as Coin and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch don’t have a lot of screen time and don’t really get a chance to spread their dramatic wings.
On the whole, Mockingjay Part 2 was not the conclusion to a great series that we needed or the one we deserved. From book readers I’ve talked to, Mockingjay was the weakest book in the entire trilogy and I think it definitely shows. We went from two really great films that focused on characters, the effects of war, and great action set pieces to a set of films that tried to tell a somewhat different story than what the first two films were.
Here in the Mockingjays, it’s more about the politics and maneuvering that the action in the films (which in the first two films supported the story) seemed to not support it. It’s almost as if you’re traveling in one direction and then turn dramatically in another direction. Instead of signaling and slowly making a turn, the Mockingjays seemed to have dramatically changed the pace of the overarching story in the final two films. While I get where things were going (big themes and questions about war, propaganda, and fighting); it just seemed a little out of place in Mockingjay considering where we as an audience came from in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.
I’m not going to say ‘don’t see it’, cause it’s definitely one of the biggest films of the year and if you’ve seen the other three then you have to see how it all ends. There is some spectacle in this film that is worth watching and the final third of the film does provide some dramatic moments for those that haven’t read the books. I will say just go into it wanting to be entertained. Like other cinematic bookends that have come before it (Return of the Jedi, The Dark Knight Rises, and even Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), Mockingjay Part 2 is more of something you have to just see–not something you should be really excited to see.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is now playing in theaters everywhere.
3 of 5 stars // rated PG-13 // 2h 16m