So here it is at last, a conclusion to the widely popular franchise depicting Katniss Everdeen’s epic and tragic journey. Just like other popular franchises based on books like Harry Potter, Twilight and the ongoing Divergent series, the final installment has been split into two parts to maximize profits at the box office. Part 2 continues where Part 1 left off so if you haven’t seen Part 1, it would be a sensible idea to see at least the last ten minutes otherwise you’ll be left in the dark during the initial stages of the final chapter. Finally picking up some pace after the tedious, sorely-stretched penultimate Mockingjay Part 1, the final chapter of this 2-billion dollar franchise spikes up with a promise of rip-roaring adrenaline that fits for a final onslaught—a promise it could barely fulfill with its drawn out and narratively flawed set up.
It sounds fitting to call the previous installment as a storm of fire still gathering blaze, or an engine still heating up, with Katniss’ being prepped up for a deadly rebellion as the fuel filling up the gas tank of interest for this last film. It is arguably a promise that has left a very comforting thought to dwell into, in spite of the fact that Part 1 isn’t as compelling as any of the last two films. This year Part 2 promises to unleashes a storm of fire which has been building up for three years. Honestly, I never appreciated this franchise much (frankly I still don’t) I rather pick its YA counter parts The Maze Runner series & Divergent series over this whole universe. But something about finales gets me hooked on as goodbyes are usually hard. We’re saying goodbye to this story and these characters in regards to our movie screens, and producers are saying goodbye to a film franchise that has become one of the top 20 in cinema history and whose films set box office records in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Within the action of this fourth film, the main characters have to say goodbye to others who survived the first three films, but don’t make it through this one, while in real life, Movie Fans are saying final goodbyes to the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman who died in early 2014 while filming this movie, making this his final film appearance. With so many real-life and character-related goodbyes involved with the ending of this series of movies, having a strong final film to enjoy would likely soften the blow. So, did we get it? The good news: the film is much better than what many people are giving it credit for.
But if you’re among those who didn’t much care for the last film and its politically charged human drama and grim tone, you might want to prepare yourself. While the gut-wrenching conclusion to the Hunger Games saga does bring the action back (although of a far grittier kind than what we saw in the first two films), its tone and themes are a perfect continuation of Mockingjay: Part 1. The bad news: Despite the action, the slow pacing in the first & final act along with the never ending run time of 137 minutes does play spoil sport. The story follows right from where Part 1 ended, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is recovering after nearly being strangled by her brainwashed boyfriend, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Katniss is anxious for an end to Panem’s civil war – and obsessed with getting her revenge on the man whom she blames for it all – President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland). As determined as she is to accomplish her goals, Katniss must contend with Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), the leader of the rebellion, who doesn’t always have Katniss’ best interests at heart. Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is there for her (as Peeta has gradual increasing moments of clarity), and so is her sister Prim (Willow Shields), whom Katniss has always protected – at great personal risk (and whom Katniss could blame for the mess that has become her life, if you really think about it). Hunger Games mentor, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), friend and stylist, Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), fellow Hunger Games veterans, Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) and Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), Alma Coin’s assistant, Plutarch Havensby (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and tough military commander, Boggs (Mahershala Ali), all try to help Katniss, but there’s only so much that they can do. She has decided that she needs to kill President Snow – up close – regardless of whatever propaganda role she’s being given or what potentially deadly obstacles (as in, sadistic booby traps) stand in her way.
Ending the civil war is very personal to Katniss and she alone is uniquely able to do just that – if she can stay alive long enough. However, she soon finds out that war is rarely as black and white as her propaganda movies make it appear. This is not the good-against-evil story anymore: this is a really smart study on how propaganda works and how one fascist system is about to be replaced – albeit with the best intentions – by another. Where the first two movies show how apathy turns into peaceful protest and peaceful protest gives way to open rebellion, the last two films show how that rebellion becomes more and more radical until the lines start to blur. A very wise person once said: “War makes Fascists of us all” – I believe this film does an excellent job at getting that point across. Apart from the delightfully evil President Snow there are no mere black and white characters here; instead, we get a story that – for once – hasn’t been dumbed down and functions as a sincere and complex exploration of an escalating civil war that threatens to consume everyone. And unlike most YA adaptations, the film doesn’t shy away for a second from showing what that means: the audience is left in no doubt about the human toll this revolution will take in the end. Plus, I have to admit there are a few striking moments in here, and seeing the feline looking creature was shocking. This is one element which has always been a strong one in this series, and I think Hollywood should have been more aware of the work that goes into this type of production. There is also more drama when things really become personal, and it almost didn’t work as we see how ludicrous the last part of the plan is. It’s almost suicidal in its stupidity, considering how extra careful and Machiavellian Snow has been this far. The eventual turn is a surprise and it brings some needed energy to the movie, and the way Katniss decides the end of the empire is awesome, only to be sabotaged by the way the movie sinks again with the tortured ten minutes that lead to her “happiness”.
What hampers the film to an extent is its flaws. The film somehow doesn’t have the grand finale the franchise deserved. All the characters are back, but instead of focusing on their development and closure they just appear as some sort of cameos with nothing to do but the occasional word, battle plans, and the ones that do talk more, like Peeta and Gale are bound to speak about the same theme because the narrative doesn’t really lets them move on until the film is over. Many characters like Haymitch, Plutarch and Johanna that should be in the center of the narrative, are sidelined to the point of barely registering as cameos. Instead the focus is only on Katniss, and i could understand that, but there’s nothing really great that justifies that, and even when there is, it is addressed in such a simple way, that it barely registers. There’s tons of things happening around the districts, specialty in the capitol of course, and instead of actually show that, the battles, the tortures, the consequences of war, we only get to see Katniss underground sitting, talking, sitting, talking, resting, talking, thinking, talking, they speak on and on about the war plans but we don’t get to see nothing of that, and even when there’s an action scene here or there (there are like 3 in the entire film) the camera never gets away from Katniss’s face for us to see actually what is happening (I mean i get it, its Jennifer Lawrence, but for gods sake!).
Another issue I found was in how the movie had several deaths of main characters but doesn’t spend enough time to pay tribute to them, not as much as they did with Rue in the first film. We also never get to see Snows side, and instead of making an interesting analysis of the two sides, we get to see Snow for like 2 minutes and then they sort of make that analysis in the end but in a very sublime way, so overall we never get to see whats really so bad about Snows dictatorship aside from the obvious things that we assume and get to know in talks, but would it be so hard to actually show what the heck is happening!
The performances have always been decent in these films and everyone has definitely improved on their characters since the first movie. It’s interesting to see how these characters have grown throughout the series. Jennifer Lawrence returns as the brave and surprisingly good public speaker, Katniss Everdeen. What can I say? Lawrence is great and she does a fantastic job once again. Her character has come a long way but she’s still able to judge people pretty well and find the best course of action. Hutcherson‘s Peeta has changed a bit in this movie since he was brainwashed during the events of the last one. Hutcherson does a pretty good job showing us the much more damaged and self-loathing character that he’s become. Liam Hemsworth also returns as Katniss’s other love interest, Gale. Gale is still trying to do the right thing by Katniss and her family but he does seem a bit more bloodthirsty this time around. I guess having your friends die in a firestorm will do that to a guy. I would be remiss not to mention the talents of Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Natalie Dormer and Donald Sutherland in this movie. Harrelson‘s Haymitch is still the voice of reason in many situations but we don’t really see his character a whole lot this time around. Moore‘s Alma Coin is fleshed out much more in this film, which was nice, but a little telegraphed also. I mean, who didn’t see that coming? Finally, Donald Sutherland as the ridiculously evil President Snow. This is one of those villains that I love to hate. Sutherland himself is grade A talent and he’s easily one of the best parts about the entire series and he certainly doesn’t disappoint this time around.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 provides a predominantly satisfying conclusion to a series that this viewer wasn’t totally enamored with. There is effective social commentary along with some finely acted dramatic scenes, interspersed with exciting action sequences, however the sum of all parts doesn’t result in a masterpiece, but more of a disposable piece of entertainment.
Overall Rating: 6.9
Director – Francis Lawrence
Starring – Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 137 minutes