The final installment of the Hunger Games series was also the final film for actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. The movie was filmed at the same time as Mockingjay Part 1, so Hoffman’s passing did not create any difficulties in casting or storytelling. It was somewhat odd to see him there on screen posthumously, and I feel some sadness that this boring film had to be his last.
Yes, I said it. It was boring.
I judge movies based on how many times I check my watch. I’ve a nice Luminox that glows in the dark enabling me to easily see the time. I checked it many times. A friend told me, as we emerged from the theater, that I looked like I’d just woken up from a nap.
The film picks up immediately where Mockingjay – Part 1 left off. You would do well to watch it again prior to seeing this film. We begin with a shot of Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), having the neck brace removed that she wore at the end of the last film after Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) tried to kill her. Peeta is still in the throes of his recovery from the torment the Capital inflicted upon him, and it isn’t going well. The rebels begin a campaign to overtake the Capital and capture and/or kill President Snow. Katniss and company end up in the Capital and, while I won’t say it, you can guess how it ends. Lots of people die and the wretched traps imagined by the Hunger Games game makers make for a visual dazzling, yet panicked and brutal affair.
However, the film just doesn’t end. The war is over and there’s still a LOT of movie left to get through. To me, Mockingjay – Part 2 had the same problem as the third Lord of the Rings film, Return of the King. The big battles end but you’ve still got thirty minutes until the end of the film. Mockingjay – Part 2 hits the climax too early and you’re left with a lengthy and downright uninteresting wrap up. Part of this is due the source material, which is immensely difficult to bring to life. In much of the third book, Katniss is struggling with the effects of everything she has been through and she clearly has a serious case of PTSD. However, the book allows us to get inside her head, and watch her work things out for herself and attempt to find some acceptance. This is difficult to show on screen and the film tries to muddle through as best it can. But after seeing the twisted attempts of the gamemakers try to kill Katniss and her team, and watching numerous people perish during the final battle, everything afterwards simply falls flat.
I will always say that Jennifer Lawrence is probably the best actress they could have picked to play the role of Katniss. She again carries the film squarely on her shoulders and conveys well the varying emotions that her character experiences in every scene. Her costar Josh Hutcherson, who has been very wooden in the past, finally gets some meat to work with for his role as Peeta, and shows some improvement. I’ve never liked that Peeta, who has been through arguably worse than Katniss over the course of this entire series, is rarely allowed to show pain and emotion. Katniss cries, screams, and clearly suffers in every film, while Peeta is the stoic one to hold her and make her feel better. This has always irked me, even in the books, and I think unfairly reinforces the idea that men should lock up their emotions and never admit if they are suffering. Mockingjay – Part 2 allows Peeta to have a few brief moments of open, personal struggle, but by the end of the film, he has locked it all away and again serves only as the love interest Katniss. Liam Hemswoth, Lawrence’s other costar, puts in another forgettable performance as Gale.
The Hunger Games films started off with so much promise with the first two films. In doing splitting the final book into two films, I feel that the franchise lost itself in the details. So much of the book did not translate well to a film format and I think keeping it to one film would have been more forgiving. It’s a sorry finish to a great start, but I, for one, am happy to see the story of the Girl on Fire finally laid to rest.
2.5 Mockingjay pins out of 5.