November 20, 2015

Movie Review: The Hunger Games - Mockingjay: Part 2

Well, the series has come to close, not with a bang, but a whimper. This is not to say I did not enjoy the film, but it is certainly not without its flaws. I can say I was entertained, but considering how the series got off to a roaring success with its first two entries, the final two seem a little tired and worn out by comparison. I seriously think the franchise would have been better off, creatively, if the Mockingjay pair of films were just one film. The studio got greedy, and as they are wont to do with their high profile franchises, split the final book into two films (following Harry Potter, Twilight, and you could probably toss The Hobbit in there as well). Both final films felt stretched and padded with material to meet run time requirements.

The final film was directed by Francis Lawrence, who has helmed the series since the second film having replaced Gary Ross. He has a certain flair and has handled the films well, it just seems as if he may have been tiring of the franchise, and the result is translated onto the screen. The screenplay duties Peter Craig (who also wrote The Town and is attached to Top Gun 2) and Danny Strong. The two hit the plot points, but more often than not do not let them sink in or create the drama they should have.

There is something about this one that makes it feel like hurry up and wait. It is not that there is a lack of ideas. There is some very potent stuff to be gleaned from the story, a lot of which can be used as a metaphor for the current state of the world. Now, you could spend a long time analyzing the real world parallels, but at the same time, the fact that is there does not really help elevate the movie for me. No, it is not about amping up the action, but it should be about giving more meaning to what is happening.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 picks up right where the first one left off, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has attacked Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), having become something of a brainwashed pawn of President Snow (Donald Sutherland). What follows is a full frontal assault as the rebels take the fight to the Capital. Katniss decides to stop being used as a pawn and head into the city to assassinate the president. Of course, this is not without its dangers or its revelations.

Anyone who has now seen the movie or read the books knows what goes down at the end, how everything builds and then how manipulations come to light. But as I sat there pulling out the interesting bits, and generally enjoying it, there was something gnawing at me, that it wasn’t as good as I actually thought it was or I was kidding myself into liking it. Well, I did enjoy it, but it seems, in retrospect that a lot more could have done with it.

As strong as the Katniss character had been, she seems to be relegated to just existing in this final foray into the Districts. It is interesting to see how this rebellion and the Capital forces are all being manipulated, but it seems obvious to the audience while the characters seem completely oblivious to it. Then there is the subdued love triangle, whose resolution seems to be one of convenience rather than actually having to make a decision. The charge through the booby trapped city is less than exciting, as our squad is behind the main fighting lines and they are always stopping to sit around in the dark. There is no real sense of urgency.

When our heroine finally comes face to face with the master manipulator of the prior films, it is like all the air has been let out. Rather than a charged confrontation between enemies with a little bite, we get a monologue in flower garden. Really? As the obvious begins to take shape, I did not feel the drama build as one would expect. It felt more paint by numbers.

Sure, I enjoyed the movie, I just think the energy could have been amped up some, the run through the city did not feel quite as urgent as it should have been. Certainly a missed opportunity, as an example. Still, there is no denying the series as a whole has delivered some good films and shows that you can make a good YA adaptation series, unlike the parade of cut rate clones that have come over the past few years. Although, some of that credit has to go to landing Jennifer Lawrence, she is a talent that as helped hold down this series and make it as good as it is, even if she is let down by the writing in the finale.

As I write this, I feel like I am stretching to make it sound like a worthwhile movie, but it is. I honestly believe that. It is certainly flawed and ends with more of a whimper than I would have liked, but it still does entertain and has interesting ideas just waiting to be pulled out. Missed opportunities aside, I liked it and have no real issue recommending it.


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