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Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Posted By:Lawrence Napoli
Fri, 12/04/2015 - 17:51

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Starved

A Film Review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

 

I appreciate what the Hunger Games film adaptations started off doing.  They put women to the forefront of an action/adventure, special effect driven saga typically reserved for the boys club and the story unfolded in a way where themes of female empowerment did not equate to male enfeeblement, thus avoiding a battle of the sexes on the internet for every reason under the sun.  The first two films were entertaining, had interesting characters and had a few nuggets of social commentary regarding the state of the western world.  Unfortunately, Mockingjays part 1 and 2 were devoid of the energy and passion that spring boarded this franchise as they were the cinematic equivalent of gearing down so as not needing to apply the brake to the approaching intersection of completion. 

As a result, I give thanks that the Hunger Games film franchise has been finally put to rest.  I am all about seeing film entertainment focused on main characters that are not exclusively white and male.  However, the way Jennifer Lawrence’s cash cow put out to pasture couldn’t have been more underwhelming, and I am legitimately vexed because despite having the budget, talent and production value to truly put this fiction on the same level as the likes of Star Wars, Avengers and Harry Potter; the opportunity was squandered.  To be clear, I am speaking only in terms of the quality of this film’s narrative and not its pocketbooks, which are certainly being stuffed with gobs of tween cash having already banked over $200 million in domestic sales in 11 days.  Even with this handsome sum (not to mention zero competition at the box office) Mockingjay Part 2 is running behind the pace of its predecessors, and I can’t help but think that more people than not were truly dissatisfied with how it all ended.  I will quote my fiancé regarding this film’s 3rd act: “The climax sucked.  I cried a little.  I got bored.  And then it was over.” 

There are two other aspects of this film that kept me looking down at my watch waiting for it to end well before its 3rd act even had a chance to lay into me.  First, Katniss Everdeen stopped being an interesting character two films ago.  I totally engaged with her desperation during the first film.  I was completely in sync with her rage over being manipulated (especially at the end) of Catching Fire.  Then these Mockingjay films came along and mothballed Katniss’ mojo.  Part of the problem is that Katniss is written to never be comfortable let alone fully accepting of her role as a revolutionary icon, let alone a base participant in the overall conflict of Panem.  Only when Katniss has no home to return to does she begrudgingly accept her greater role with half-hearted enthusiasm vainly masking her only motivation: protecting her friends and family at all costs.  The blame for this offense lies at the feet of Jennifer Lawrence and director Francis Lawrence.  Where Katniss’ defiance, anger and frustration would naturally be approaching critical mass, her character is presented as a back seat driver who endures inevitable victory as if she knew all along, thus finding no real need to demonstrate passion.  Not having read the books, I cannot tell if Katniss ever drops the selfishness, indecisiveness, self-loathing and general mopey attitude, but this status quo is fully maintained in both Mockingjay films.  Hell, just looking at Jennifer Lawrence during the climactic “arrow strike” sequence couldn’t have screamed a millennial “whatever, why am I even here?” any louder even if the filmmakers tried.

The second thing that never sat well with me in this film is that although we are constantly following Katniss’ journey towards the Capitol, this adventure is actually not important to the overall plot.  Everything significant happens off camera in the hopes that the audience can simply connect the dots back to Katniss in some meaningful way.  Her journey certainly has more personal meaning by aiding her mind in choosing between Gale and Peeta, but even that element gets scuffled because she and her spec ops unit are too busy dodging death traps in areas of the capitol not on the front lines of combat?  What?  The fact that Katniss’ sham of a final mission is so resolutely inert makes perfect sense how this film ends in the very definition of “insult to injury.” 

Action Style

When the cast finally gets around to opening fire and throwing a punch, it actually isn’t too bad.  I simply wished there was more of it.

4/6

Action Frame

Plenty of low and high angle dynamic shots feature a series of tracks, pulls and pans during both action and dialogue sequences.

4/5

Lead Performance

Jennifer Lawrence is still J-Law, but that’s no excuse for mailing in anything even at this point in her career.  The girl on fire has been doused!  Josh Hutcherson is credited for all the points in this category.

3/6

Supporting Performance

Donald Sutherland is great.  Julianne Moore is zzzzzz.  Liam Hemsworth has only one facial expression.  And I hope Mahershala Ali gets more roles in a leading capacity.  Nothing but love for House of Cards!  Also, I’d like more Woody Harrelson please.

3/5

Music

Passable, but not inspiring in any way.

3/6

Sound F/X

Actually quite good, especially in the sewers!

4/5

“Moving” = 21/33

Digital F/X

This entire franchise has maintained a dedicated “less is more” approach to the use of CG.  As such, the moments where spectacle and the impossible occur are much more impactful.  Still, I’d rather see a bit more.

5/6

Special F/X

Most of the CG required close coordination with the stunt and pyro teams to show the effects of an ever-changing, hostile environment on our heroes.  This was an effective partnership that obscured the lines between CG and practical effects.

4/5

Costumes

Our tributes aren’t interviewing with Stanley Tucci in this film, thus the range of spectacular design concepts are limited to the mundane. 

4/6

Hair & Makeup

See above.

3/5

Exteriors

The outskirts of the capitol are as drab as the inner bunkers of District 13.

3/6

Interiors

If you are going to go dark, go all the way.  Those were some of the cleanest service tunnels and sewer systems I’ve seen from Hollywood.

2/5

“Picture” = 21/33

Hook

Being Part 2, the actual hook is carried over from Part 1 which leaves the viewer understanding that we’re still at war with the capitol and Katniss is still a propaganda proxy.

2/4

Conflict

I used to believe in Katniss’ personal anger towards President Snow two films ago.  The only real conflict is her inner struggle to choose between the hunky boy and the pretty good looking friend – which is a decision somewhat taken out of her hands.

2/4

Resolution

One of the least satisfying and surprising endings in the history of film.

1/4

Dialogue

Down to earth, intimate and not riddled with made up fictional jargon.  I just wished Katniss had something more significant to say all the time.

4/6

Exposition

There’s way too much happening off screen that Katniss has nothing to do with that forces the viewer into too many leaps of faith plot-wise.

2/5

Character Uniqueness

Nothing new is happening with Katniss as a character.  Peeta’s transformation from homicidal boyfriend back to the baker with political aspirations is quite interesting, but of course, there’s not much screen time devoted to it.

4/6

Character Relatability

After three films of Katniss being put through the ringer physically, emotionally and spiritually (and still breathing) one would think that even the most common of human beings regardless of sex, age, ethnicity or personal talent would be capable of ascending to a version of themselves that is greater than their own personal agenda.  Perhaps it is the lesson of The Hunger Games [films] that sometimes the crucible has no effect on us?

1/5

“Story” = 16/34

Overall MPS Rating: 58/100

The “girl on fire” couldn’t be further away from going out in a blaze of glory.  Mockingjay Part 2 is an adventure without energy, passion and the will to succeed which it cannot make up for with plot twists of convenience to divert the viewer’s attention.  These journeys don’t always have to end in victory, but the protagonist must have something radiating from inside that makes the hero/heroine’s path worthwhile even if an audience cannot identify or sympathize with him or her.  It is a reliable failure of Hollywood filmmaking that culminates when lackluster performance intersects unfocused direction.

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