Meet The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (opening today), the two-plus-hour film that really should have been released as just one movie, following last year’s stupid-slow money-grab, Mockingjay Part 1. This is the fourth and final film in the series, bringing the once-promising franchise to a close. And while it has a rabid built-in audience and is sure to be a bona fide box-office hit, the ending, for me, couldn’t have come soon enough.
The first two films in The Hunger Games saga were solid, with surprisingly strong-for-the-genre acting performances by Jennifer Lawrence, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland, specifically. They told the familiar story of a suppressed nobody, Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) rising to heroic status in a world ruled by the brutal, wealthy, pompous dictator, President Snow (Sutherland). The backdrop and framework of the story was the real point of intrigue, where the several impoverished districts of Snow’s nation of Panem, plucked one unlucky representative each year to compete in “The Hunger Games,” a tournament to the death where there is only one winner, with the entire event being made a spectacle and broadcast live.
With last year’s installment, Part 1, most – if not all – of the air was sucked out of the saga. It was an overlong, boring chapter where little happened, existing only to increase the profits of the Hollywood studios, who oversee such films not unlike President Snow, sneering and twiddling their fingers as they wait for the results, with a blood-thirsty appetite for more and more entertainment value. Splitting these tent-pole movies’ into two or more pain-staking parts is a depressing trend in Hollywood (it worked for the final Harry Potter, not so much for Twilight and The Hobbit). But this new film, Part 2, was supposed to bring us everything we were wanting the last time, now even hyped up more since we had to endure Part 1.
And this film is definitely faster-paced and more exciting than the last one, and does feature a few nice sequences. But the stakes are now gone. Basically, Katniss and her friends, under the leadership of rebel leader President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Game-Master Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, who filmed Part 1 and Part 2 back-to-back before his tragic death in February 2014), lead an assault on the Capital, where President Snow is backed into a corner. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss’s love interest, is also in tow (for reasons unknown), despite having been brain-washed to hate his former friend.
And for a minute, the premise seemed like it might be fun: The President has evacuated and then booby-trapped his entire city, and as Katniss and her merry group of red-shirts (Star Trek reference) try to maneuver their way through, they would be knocked off one by one. It’s the Predator model, but also the structure used in the first two films inside The Hunger Games arena. But nearly before it gets going, this model is abandoned, and what ensues is just a sloppy amalgam of brain-dead action sequences, and head-scratching plot points as Katniss eventually – graciously – barrels her way towards the end of the film, putting this franchise out of its misery.
Need proof of the stupidity? Take an underground attack by a bunch of alien-looking monsters. First of all, are you telling me that Snow went through the hassle of booby-trapping every square foot of his city, but he never considered that they might use the underground tunnels? But even so, these monsters come into the story with little to no warning…and if Snow had these things at his disposal the entire time, why the heck weren’t they used to fend off the rebels? They seem like ideal fighting machines. Maybe this is explained in the book, but in the movie it is just an interjected mess.
Need more? Without giving away a direct spoiler, doesn’t President Coin know by now how bad-ass Katniss is? How could she possibly allow anything Katniss loves to get in the line of fire? For someone who put on such an orchestrated, thought-out rebellion, boy did they mismanage Katniss. The whole thing just seems under-cooked.
By the time the end credits hit on The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, we also had to sit through the inevitable “flash-forward” as to how things turned out with our main characters. By then my eyes went from rolling into the back of my head, to searching for the theater exit.
Gone too, were all of the eccentric side characters that made the first two films charming and interesting. Poor Caesar Flickerman (Tucci) only has one small appearance in this film. Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) are again relegated to near nothingness. And like the last film, Hoffman’s presence just casts an eeriness over his scenes, as we are more interested in looking for signs of him being CG-ed into the film, than we are what his character is ever talking about when he’s on-screen.
Both Sutherland and Lawrence try to breathe some emotion and heart back into the series, but there efforts are not enough. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is the unavoidable conclusion to the story that started four films ago, I just always thought that we would care so much more once we finally arrived.
Genre: Adventure, Science Fiction
Run Time: 2 hours, 17 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Dormer, Elizabeth Banks, Gwendoline Christie, Liam Hemsworth, Jena Malone, Julianne Moore, Josh Hutcherson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson
Directed by Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Water for Elephants, I am Legend, Constantine)
Opens locally on Friday, Nov 20, 2015 (check for show times).