Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2
Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Willow Shields, Sam Claflin
by Michael Clawson of Terminal Volume
Don’t go into Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 expecting a warm welcome. It opens with a smash cut to a close-up of Jennifer Lawrence’s face, wounded and terrified. You can almost see the stretch marks on the edge of the frame where Hollywood’s greed tore the film in two.
See, the last film ended with Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence), perennial hero of the Hunger Games and recently crowned propaganda princess for a rebellion, getting choked out by her faux-boyfriend, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who was stung by a really angry bee during a torture session far, far away. Katniss licks her wounds, pulls herself back up, and off the movie goes as if another year hasn’t passed between the last film and this one. We’re older and wiser people, Hunger Games Colon Mockingjay Em Dash Part 2. And we see through your tricks, but oh nevermind here’s my money, take it all because a fool and his money are soon parted, especially in the world of young adult fiction, where single books get multiple films regardless of content.
Part 2 almost works better if you imagine Part 1 doesn’t exist. Because what happened in Part 1 — Katniss is whisked to safety from a dystopian government, she becomes the poster girl of a rebellion, and she questions her sanity amid total destruction — could have certainly been accomplished in a 30-minute deleted scene here in the finale. As we pick back up with Katniss, little has changed because it’s been like 2 minutes after the events of Part 1. The war trudges on, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) still taunts the rebels, and rebel leader Coin (Julianne Moore) is still a villain in disguise.
Katniss, though, has had enough and she vows to kill Snow, which sends her and a bunch of other rebels off into the battlefield, where Snow’s troops have hidden traps that are as ineffective as a box propped up with a stick on a string. They can be seen on a holographic scope, and someone has to practically walk up to them and wave, insert a quarter, do three Hail Marys and then not move for 30 seconds. The only trap that actually kills anyone is either wire-triggered oil or oil-triggered wire — I’m still not sure. There are also naked mole-zombies, who are unleashed in the sewers. I think these are cameos from the cave monsters in The Descent, although I didn’t see their names in the end credits.
This is a silly world. It always has been. I appreciate the design and look of it, but it’s just too ridiculous to take serious, from the Nazi overtones to the bizarr-o fashion choice. The only thing we have grounding us amid the visual bonanza is Lawrence, who might be doing the best one-note performance of her career. In the first film, we saw her innocence shattered as she was thrown into a deadly reality competition. We saw her regain her composure, rattle the cages, rewrite all the rules of the game and come out the other side a fierce warrior. The other films have not seen as much growth, and here she is clearly playing a depressed soldier rattled by the loss of her friends and family. Her rebellious spirit comes out, but not enough times to see Katniss as something more than a wounded pawn on Snow-Coin’s battlefield.
It has momentum, though, especially in the final act, which plunges Katniss and Peeta deeper and deeper into Snow’s minefield of traps. Of course, if you’ve read the books, you know what happens next. Spoiler alert: Katniss is knocked out for the most important parts of the movie. This scene was mishandled in the book, and here that mishandling has been adapted to film. Why, why, why would anyone let so much plot happen off screen as the hero is unconcious? Imagine Luke Skywalker flying his X-Wing up to the Death Star and right before he banks into the trenches is knocked out. Cut to sick bay, where Han and Chewbacca congratulate him on their victory. That’s what happens here. And it’s idiotic.
What immediately follows that is handled much better, including a lovely coda with Katniss and Peeta amid the bombed-out ruins of their homes, but this film need to deviate from its source material in a major way, and it doesn’t, at least not where it counts.
Overall, though, the film ties up the events of the franchise nicely. And the characters are given proper closure. But in no way is this a model for how a franchise should be closed up. It needed to be three movies, not four. It certainly didn’t leave me hungry.