FILM REVIEW: ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2’ (2015)

Katniss in the Hunger Games
Hunger Games

Although I’m a fan of The Hunger Games films, I haven’t read Suzanne Collins’s novels and have no idea how loyal they are to the author’s original vision. From an outsider’s perspective, the first two Hunger Games astutely combined action with overtly political themes. The book to big screen transition appeared to have worked. Then came the final instalment, needlessly split in two to drain emaciated debit cards. The first part was an extended talkathon, but still held my interest. The second part is an unsalvageable farce that ruins an enjoyable series.

Incoherence, thy name is Mockingjay – Part 2. Artistic integrity was sacrificed the moment the decision was taken to cleave the finale in two, hamstringing the second part before it even began. Structurally, Mockingjay resembles the way ITV1 used to show two thirds of a film, break for the news then return to the final third. The viewing experience for Part Two was ruined by the extended break. By opting for quantity over quality, thereby stretching out a series that should’ve stayed a trilogy, Director Francis Lawrence must take responsibility for the shambles.

To begin with, Mockingjay – Part 1 segues into Part 2 disjointedly. We are clumsily thrust into the travails of Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle), the reluctant figurehead of the Thirteen Districts of Panem’s revolt against the dictatorial Capitol. Confusion reigned as I tried to recall what happened at the end of the first part before the story ran away from me, but Katniss’s tedious struggle to balance political responsibilities with her omnipresent love life became apparent soon enough.

The love triangle revolving around Katniss endures with awful consequences. Central themes of betrayal and lust are for the pleasure of a tweenage audience, to the detriment of everyone haunted in their sleep by the Inland Revenue. Torn between Peeta Mellark, played by Josh Hutcherson (Polar Express, Journey to the Centre of the Earth) and Gale Hawthorne, played by Liam Hemsworth (The Dressmaker, The Expendables 2), Katniss appears deceitful, overshadowing her fighting abilities and strong leadership. Dialogue, lost in the Bermuda love triangle, is excruciatingly appalling. In one memorably rancid exchange about Katniss’s mind-set, Gale and Peeta converse with all the profundity of a man deliberating over floor tiles. It won’t stop a thousand girls nodding with approval, nor a million cash registers clanging.

Jennifer Lawrence’s support ranges from exemplary to disappointing. Peeta remains brainwashed by the imperious Donald Sutherland (Animal House, JFK), President Snow in Hunger Games jargon, into thinking Katniss is the villain. Despite being relegated to the fringes, Snow remains majestically evil. Strangely, Peeta’s ‘struggle’ against Snow’s propaganda is unconvincing throughout. He veers from fighting Snow’s forces to attacking his own side, but his erraticism feels synthetic. Hutcherson never convinces that he’s truly unable to control his actions. What’s clear is that Peeta’s still the liability he was in the first part, slowing the rebels down as they toil towards the Capitol to assassinate Snow.

Internal battles within the rebel movement are simultaneously the film’s most interesting aspect and wasted opportunity. Julianne Moore (The Big Lebowski, Still Alice) is excellent as President Alma Coin, the rebellion’s leader. Mockingjay – Part 2’s greatest asset, Moore’s powerful yet insufficient contribution is frustrating. Her frosty relationship with Katniss shows the rebels suffer their own conflict of interests, and are by no means wholly moral, as one explosive sequence outside Snow’s palace suggests. She upstages Snow somewhat, proving demonstrably that the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend.

Saddled with poor dialogue, burdened by strange pacing and hindered by a nauseating love triangle, Mockingjay – Part 2 is a wretched sign-off for a richly entertaining series. Mockingjay did not need to be carved in two, and some savvy editing and quality control could’ve condensed both parts into one entirely enjoyable offering. Instead, we’re left with a poor end to a thought-provoking series.

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