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THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2 is a poor movie with an okay conclusion…

Posted on December 4th, 2015
Posted on December 4th, 2015

by Coop Cooper

As with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, Hollywood got the bright idea to make more money out of movies based on popular book franchises by splitting them into two (or in the case of “The Hobbit”, three) movies. The way this works best is when the book itself has naturally strong cliffhanger points in the story that will keep viewers hanging on for up to a year before the next installment, plus a strong story to begin with. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 2” is definitely a case of a book adaptation, split into two movies, that didn’t work.

At the beginning of “Part 2”, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) recovers from a near-strangulation by the brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and learns he may be beyond saving. With the resistance gearing up for a final assault on the Capitol, President Coin (Julianne Moore) presses Katniss into starring in more propaganda videos in order to sway the citizens of the Capitol against President Snow (Donald Sutherland) to hasten the victory. Instead, Katniss decides to go rogue and stows away to the front lines in order to infiltrate the Capitol with her childhood friend, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), and assassinate President Snow. When Coin discovers Katniss’s plan, she sabotages it by sending Peeta to join her assault team, thus putting the lives of Katniss and her team in jeopardy.

Ever since it was published, fans of the previous Hunger Games novels have long complained Mockingjay did not live up to the first two books. Understandable considering the majority of the first two utilized the gladiator-styled Hunger Games themselves as the crux of the plot while the final novel focused entirely on the civil war that resulted from Katniss’s civil disobedience. Granted, author Suzanne Collins attempted to bring the ‘games’ element to Mockingjay by having Katniss and her team bypass a series of traps called ‘pods’ left in the streets of the ruins of the Capitol on their way to President Snow. Also, Snow unleashes ‘mutts’, which I assume is the generic term for any mutant animals used as pawns in the games. In the first movie there were giant, mutant dogs (weren’t there some giant poison monkeys at some point?) and in this one, the mutts are humans cruelly transformed into goblin-like creatures who nearly wipe out Katniss’s team. These touches added up to a worthy try at a substitute for the games but it it doesn’t work as intended.

The problem with cutting “Mockingjay” into two halves is that the story never lent itself to the partitioning. Each part simply felt like half of a story which is the ultimate failure of the film. They only work if watched back-to-back as a whole, but even then, the second half has a lot of problems which could have been fixed for the film adaptation. Firstly, most of the characters from the previous books/films go unused. Johanna (Jena Malone) in particular is one of the most interesting characters who has absolutely nothing to do in this last film but to add a little exposition to the story. Malone has grown from an insufferable overactor in her youth into a solid, three-dimensional thespian and I find it mind-boggling her character wasn’t written into Katniss’s final assault team. The scene with the ‘mutts’ was lit so poorly – as was the entire film – and the action so choppy, you couldn’t tell who was dying or or doing the killing in the kinetic action scenes. The worst offense of the film was that Katniss’s journey through the Capitol has no bearing on the final battle. The only thing it might have done was solidify in her mind her final choice that leads to her final act of disobedience, but that does little prove there was a point to her final ‘game’ which kills many a character. The film’s bittersweet final moments were probably enough to satiate the fans and I at least felt some satisfaction in its connection to the overarching story, even if the last push towards it was less than brilliant.

This film also marks a sad milestone as the last released film featuring actor Philip Seymour Hoffman since his death in February of 2014. Since he died during the production, his appearance amounts to little more than a cameo cobbled together from available footage and shots of him in the final scenes using computer generated effects. It’s not the most fitting end to his career but the filmmakers managed to at least make it dignified.

Mockingjay Pt. 2” has an ending that leaves little hope for any continuation of “The Hunger Games” franchise, at least with Katniss involved. Perhaps a prequel with some other main character could be developed (Haymitch, maybe?), but like “Twilight”, the chance of a quality resurrection of the franchise seems slim. It’s not quite the conclusion I was hoping for and it doesn’t live up to the other films, but I never felt like it wasted my time. Despite its flaws, it’s a must-see for fans of the franchise.

Rating: 2 and ½ out of 5 stars

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