As the districts of Panem unite to battle the tyrannical President Snow (Donald Sutherland) at the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) prepares for her toughest mission yet. Heading to District 2 as a propagandistic member of commander Boggs’ (Mahershala Ali) Squad 451, Katniss joins forces with old and new allies, including Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), Cressida (Natalie Dormer), Castor (Wes Chatham), and Pollux (Elden Henson). Following behind the rebel front lines, the group must evade scattered Peacekeeper soldiers, mine fields, and cunning Gamemakers’ pods – booby traps outfitted with all manner of deviously destructive capabilities. When Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is thrust into her care once again, and an unexpected tragedy forces Katniss to take command, she must make a decision that will impact not only the lives of her friends but also the very fate of Panem.
The film start mid-scene, which is fitting since the previous installment ended in about the same fashion. It makes no attempt to mask the fact that it’s half a movie, half a story, and ultimately just a further adventure for a band of characters that shouldn’t have progressed past the first theatrical episode. The shame with this franchise is that even though it kicked off the craze for teen dramas set in dystopian futures, its insistence on stretching out the plot over several pictures means that it has now become just as generic and derivative as the plethora of copycats it inspired.
The only realism to the rebellion is its longevity – and its slowness. It makes sense that it takes a considerable amount of time to overthrow a corrupt regime, itself a system that has become dictatorial and oppressive over the course of decades. What doesn’t make sense is the speed in which the history of “The Hunger Games” tends to repeat itself – and the actions of its inhabitants as they switch allegiances or change behaviors to match a contrived plot twist. Peeta’s brainwashing in the previous film spills over onto other characters as if they were also influenced by insect toxin torture.
Meanwhile, as the storyline alternates between rousing speeches, insubordinate maneuvers, and surprise attacks, Katniss retains her infuriatingly reckless routines. She’s lost all of the momentum of her survivalist toughness from the actual kill-or-be-killed, gladiatorial competitions; now she only exhibits a carelessness and an unintelligence that proves she doesn’t understand the importance of her role as a symbol, the severity of warfare, or the benefits of hatching a plan. Nearly every one of her endeavors begins with impulsiveness or arrogance and ends with blind luck. She never once demonstrates acumen as she treks across 75 blocks of booby-trapped metropolitan ruins; rather, she proceeds with a repetitious circle of foolhardy instincts and last-minute escapes fueled by well-timed rescuers. It also doesn’t help that Katniss’ attitude stays in a constant funk, as if she’s a whining, remorseful, intimidated, hollow shell of a person, devoid of the will to carry on fighting. For the most part, she gave up two movies ago.
Even when the set designs show potential as battlegrounds of claustrophobic, mazy terrors, they’re spoiled by traditional zombie hordes or video game-like deathtraps. The postapocalyptic terrain and its strange denizens can’t muster the inventiveness necessary to put this project above the countless other features that borrowed from the success of the original. It seems that the writers ran out of steam after “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” It also doesn’t help that the long-awaited wrapping up of loose ends, the serving up of retribution to the evil culprits of a four-part series, and the witnessing of outcomes of so many characters provide little real satisfaction, continually hiding behind the idea that war is hell. A “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” styled finale (which is essentially coda after coda after coda) and the most unconvincing of love triangles further cement “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” as something much less than a complete movie and far more disappointing than a muddled bit of juvenile science-fiction outgrowth.