“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” picks up where Part 1 left off, and as the final installment in Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” trilogy, it sees Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) last attempts at putting an end to the oppression brought upon by Panem’s President Snow (Donald Sutherland). That build up and that final encounter would have been better suited for “Mockingjay – Part 1,” as the lull in between parts dampened what was at stake. “Mockingjay” the novel should not have been broken up into two parts; there was just too much time to fill with things that did nothing to build upon the stakes that were already there from the first two installments. Though action packed and exciting in parts, “Mockingjay – Part 2” is a bit of a laborious task to sit through.
Picking up from where the first installment left off, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has been saved by the rebels in District 13, but having been brainwashed by Snow, he doesn’t see Katniss the way he once used to. Katniss must cope with that as she, Peeta, and a host of other allies advance on the Capitol to put an end to Snow once and for all. But the path ahead is lined with booby traps all designed to stifle the rebels’ progress, and is dubbed by District 4’s Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) as an impromptu 76th Hunger Games.
The actual Games’ itself is what made the first two films (and books) so exciting. This final chapter is supposed to emulate that, and in parts it does, but the overall end game is lacking due to the manner in which it was broken down. The Hunger Games trilogy works due to the first two installments setting the tone for what the third will bring. Perhaps there was a bit of a lapse in judgement when breaking the third and final chapter into two parts, but “Mockingjay – Part 2” seems to lose the momentum “Mockingjay – Part 1” gained from “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire.” The nuances that connected the films are absent or forgotten, and the feeling of caring for these characters is diminished. Even as a villain, there’s little substance to who Snow is and what exactly he’s fighting for, which doesn’t make for a good final standoff.
What the film works to focus on (and in some ways successfully accomplishes) is the love triangle of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Stuck in the middle, Katniss is drawn to both boys—Gale for the life they shared back in District 12, and Peeta for the life they experienced in the Games. Gale seems more resigned to the fact that Katniss will always share a deep and impenetrable connection with Peeta, while Peeta is just trying to figure out what is real in regards to Katniss. And while Katniss does look like the villain in this triangle leading on both boys, she finally experiences clarity in understand who the right one for her is.
What’s good about “Mockingjay” and even “The Hunger Games” franchise as a whole is the focus of an oppressed nation and the upheaval of a flawed and corrupted government. There’s a civil war for freedom where every tactic on either sides’ arsenal is fair play. When the rebel leader Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) uses Katniss as propaganda to further incite Capitol loyalists to the rebels’ side, we see someone who is just as corrupt as Snow, hoping to reap the benefits in the aftermath of this war. It’s an interesting depiction of political prowess, proving that personal status usurps community wellbeing.
Overall, there are moments in “Mockingjay – Part 2” that work really well. The underground expedition provokes the same fear the novel manages to do, and correctly evokes a wistful feeling at its result. But the emotional connection stops there, as the rest of the film loses the focus on what matters to Katniss the most. There’s a poor buildup and development to the characters involved, causing Katniss’ sister Prim (Willow Shields) to fade into the forgotten background. Even fan favorites Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) are nothing but mirages in this final trip to Panem. The few drops of excitement aren’t enough to save “Mockingjay—Part 2” from sputtering from the sky. Instead, the franchise plummets in its final foray, crestfallen and grasping for something that matters.
Final grade? C+