Harry Potter started the flurry of young adult adaptations and held the title for years. Many other would-be franchises tried to continue with the success, but the unfortunate (for us) successor was the Twilight saga. Even with the popularity of that book/movie series, audiences were ready for another franchise to take the crown, which eventually went to the adaptations of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games novels.
Much like its predecessors, The Hunger Games had its final book split into two movies. The only explanation for this is money. Who can blame them, with each movie making hundreds of millions each.
Forgive me if you know the story well, but let’s catch up on the story so far.
The first Hunger Games was a poorly shot, but captivating story of a young girl, living in a destitute region of a futuristic dystopia. In order to save the life of her sister, she volunteers for the Hunger Games, a televised death match.
The second movie, Catching Fire, put a fine polish on the mistakes of the first movie and managed to create an emotional and intense experience. As the victor of the first Hunger Games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself to be a symbol of hope for the rebellion. To stop her, the malicious President Snow (Donald Sutherland) puts her back in the Hunger Games to face almost certain death.
In Mockingjay part 1, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has been kidnapped and brainwashed, while Katniss suffers with PTSD. It’s basically two hours of Jennifer Lawrence’s sad face.
Now, in Mockingjay part 2, Katniss is still stuck underground with the heads of the resistance, President Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The rebels are prepping to storm the capitol and finally take down President Snow. Katniss feels useless, then decides to join the fray. The resistance leaders continue to use her as a tool for propaganda, but quickly lose control when Katniss’s team is constantly put under threat on the streets of the capitol. Snow has put traps on every block, creating Katniss’s final Hunger Games.
As this is the final Hunger Games movie, the action is ramped up considerably, especially compared to the first part. Katniss has survived terrible events in the past, but now faces highly-trained soldiers, tar flows, crumbling buildings and underground Morlocks. She also faces her biggest foe yet – the lack of character development. This is not due to what’s come before. Katniss is a great character, who has certainly changed throughout the series. However, the problem is that, this being the second part of a story, this movie cannot stand on its own. It requires that you watch two hours of a dour flick to provide context to why she’s so glum.
Honestly, thinking back over the course of the series, I cannot remember one time when Katniss smiled.
Casual fans of the series won’t be disappointed. The big moments are kept in and the fan favorite characters are all back…well, except the dead ones. The downside of Mockingjay part 2 is that it lacks emotion. This is surprising, considering director Francis Lawrence has created raw emotional scenes in the previous two movies. The moments that should be used to cause tears or excitement are glossed over for no discernible reason.
Pacing for part 2 is nearly a disaster. The first third reminds us of the movie that we didn’t like. Act 2 gives us a claustrophobic siege that is far too anti-climactic. Somehow, just when you think the movie has reached its closure, it continues with another ending. And another. And another. The Hunger Games has somehow out Return-of-the-King’d Lord of the Rings.
I truly like these characters and I wish there was better source material for them to play in. It’s a shame that the flawed third book was split into two flawed movies. Having the author of the book be a screenwriter assures that.
With all of my griping, I found this to be a great-looking movie with good characters that gave an uneven franchise a worthy ending. Sadly, it’s the most gloomy action movie of the year that could have had far more impact. C+