For all the talk of this final instalment of the wildly popular Hunger Games series promising to be an ‘epic’ conclusion to the dystopian drama, very little generates a spark, let alone catches fire.
It’s a real shame a franchise that has given us so many great moments, and in the case of its second movie Catching Fire a genuinely top-drawer slice of blockbuster entertainment, should cross the finish line with such an exhausted stumble.
Those who care about such things will no doubt have an opinion over whether the decision to split the final part of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy into two films was right or wrong from an artistic perspective. However, it’s essentially a moot point as we have to judge Mockingjay – Part 2 on its merits – which are sadly lacking for the most part.
The film picks up almost exactly where Part 1 left off, with a brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) having tried to murder Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), who is finding the burden of being the face of the resistance a heavy weight to shoulder.
With the pieces being moved into place, the final assault against the Capital and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) gets underway, but this is a fight fraught with danger, not only from the deadly traps set within the Capital, but also from inside their own ranks as Katniss, Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) struggle to address their love triangle while trying desperately to survive.
It almost goes without saying, but Lawrence is once again excellent in the role that has defined her career to date. The shell shock that Katniss has been experiencing since her first, horrific encounter in the Hunger Games has only grown more acute as time has gone on and left her as a husk, whose only motivation is to assassinate Snow.
Lawrence effectively conveys both the terror of being sucked into a violent and unpredictable situation, as well as the dead-eyed resignation of someone desensitized to events around her. In the hands of a lesser actor, Katniss could easily come across as miserable, but Lawrence has continually imbued the character with an intriguing mix of vulnerability and steel.
The supporting cast provides suitable back-up, most notably a lively, but under-utilised turn from Jena Malone as the mentally damaged Johanna; a reliably excellent Sutherland as the pitiless Snow; and the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman in his final screen appearance as puppet master Plutarch Heavensbee (a scene towards the end involving a letter from Heavensbee would have worked so much better had Hoffman appeared in it).
The film finds an extra gear when the assault on the Capital finally begins in earnest and the springing of the traps laid down by Snow’s Gamesmakers recapture some of the magic of the first two movies. Likewise, an extended sewer sequence where Katniss and co must overcome creatures borrowed from The Descent is pulse-quickening stuff and nods heavily in the direction of Alien/Aliens.
However, just when the film feels like it’s ready to lift off, the foot is taken off the gas as the characters talk themselves into a stupor. As such, the pacing of Mockingjay – Part 2 is all over the place, veering disjointedly from moments of tension to swathes of glacial tedium. A similar issue affected Part 1, although it was saved in part by the subtle commentary on how the media war and actual conflict help to fuel each other.
The final section feels anticlimactic (a symptom of adhering so closely to what is considered the weakest of the books) and underwhelming, while the much-discussed final scene, although earned on Katniss’ part, feels like it belongs in a lesser Young Adult adaptation.
After the mouth-watering treat of the previous three courses, it’s a shame The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 concludes this banquet in such an unsatisfactory way.
Great review, agree completely. It’s opening sentences like this that pay the bills for renowned journalists worldwide
Cheers mate. Ha ha, well, I try my best!
We definitely see eye to eye on this one. Not the epic conclusion they marketed. While not the worst movie ever, it is inconsistent, uneven and disappointing overall. Great write up!
Thanks Zoe. It’s not awful as you say, but compared to the others it staggers along doesn’t it?
Great review, and I agree with everything you said. I enjoyed the movie, but the pacing drove me crazy. 2 parts was really unnecessary, but I think it’s now the way forward, sadly.
Thank you very much! Glad to read that you agree. Yeah, splitting it up into two parts simply didn’t work.
Great review mate. I could’ve done without the very last scene too, but all-in-all I enjoyed this film (and the franchise as a whole) a great deal. Really smart blockbuster filmmaking unafraid to chew on relevant societal/political themes.
In time, we’ll look back on this franchise as one that was prepared to do something brave and different. Rather better than the Insurgent movies, eh?
Absolutely! This franchise has definitely set the high watermark for YA adaptations (while breaking free from the YA tag).
There isn’t much competition at the moment I guess. I liked the Maze Runner though!
Me too actually. Looking forward to the third, hopefully it’ll end on a high note — can’t believe we’re actually getting a trilogy!
Yep agree w/ your review Mark! It’s a rather dull affair and the ending just drags and drags. I’m so bored looking at Jennifer Lawrence’s face which is practically in every single scene! Yeah, terrible pacing and so predictable!
Thanks Ruth! I’ll be honest, I won’t get bored of seeing Jen! However, she was one of the only saving graces of this.