Movie Review – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Director: Francis Lawrence

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Natalie Dormer, Elizabeth Banks, Willow Shields, Sam Claflin and a surprising amount of other people.

In this final part of the third film, Katniss (Lawrence) is ready to assassinate President Snow (Sutherland) for everything he has put the districts through. The rebel forces are also preparing for a final assault on the capital, but while the fate of Panem will be decided on the battlefield, Katniss is still torn between Peeta (Hutcherson) and Gale (Hemsworth).

Okay, so The Hunger Games has been a big phenomenon and through it we also saw the rise of Jennifer Lawrence as a huge Hollywood star, and this film is the culmination of the journey and yet while Lawrence’s star continues to rise Mockingjay Part 2 peters out in an uneven, most dull and drab conclusion, and it seems that Lawrence has outgrown the role that made her the star.

The film picks up from where it left off with Peeta having undergone torture. The film quickly moves on to the task of uniting the final districts, and then the assault on the capital. But Katniss is still kept away from the front lines, used more as a weapon of propaganda than as a soldier. This is a concept and an angle that I really enjoyed, and it was interesting to see Katniss’ struggle between her personal desires to be fighting alongside her brothers and sisters of the district, and her awareness that she’s more than a simple soldier.

But one major problem of the story is that it pays a lot of lip service to the rebel armies and the attack on the capital, yet the camera rarely leaves Katniss. Even in action sequences its often focused on her face, and I get it because Lawrence is that big of a star, but it’s to the detriment of the overall world. In the same vein, the franchise has been blessed with a wide cast of great actors, yet in this final film most of them are sidelined to cameo roles. Even Sutherland, who is the main antagonist,  doesn’t get much to do aside from make some sinister remarks.

Of course Hutcherson and Hemsworth get a fair amount to work with, and I feel that Hutcherson actually outshone Lawrence in the film. The love triangle has simmered throughout the films and it’s finally resolved here, but in a way that feels unsatisfying and I’m still not entirely sure why Katniss made the choice that she did.

On a technical level the film is often dark and there were many times when I could barely tell what was going on. The pace is uneven too. Much of it felt slow, and then the action was rushed through. There are a couple of notable set-pieces, one underground and the other in a courtyard, but other than that Mockingjay Part 2 consists of Katniss talking, walking, resting, thinking, sleeping. It doesn’t make for compulsive viewing, no matter how magnetic Lawrence is.

Not helping the pacing problem is the ending, or I should say endings. It just keeps going and going and going, until eventually it just got painful. Even then it doesn’t feel like a triumphant resolution and the dark tone of the franchise leaves little room for joy.

The focus on Katniss also means that the conflict isn’t as well-realized as it should be. We see the side of the districts but the people of the Capital are not developed or fleshed out, meaning that the war feels empty, and that’s the big problem with the film as a whole, it just feels empty, like everyone just wants it to be over. Perhaps that’s a symptom of splitting the last book into two parts, but it left me rolling my eyes and with a foul taste in my mouth.

I suppose if you’ve seen the other films in the franchise you might as well finish it off, but I can’t recommend it as a good film in its own right. Telling was the fact that before the film there was a trailer for Joy, Lawrence’s next film directed by David O. Russell. She’ll go onto bigger and better things, while The Hunger Games may just be a footnote in her career thanks to a lacklustre conclusion.

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