Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

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DIR: Francis Lawrence • WRI Peter Craig, Danny Strong Pro: Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik • DOP: Jo Willems • ED: Alan Edward Bell, Mark Yoshikawa • MUS: James Newton Howard • CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

There’s something almost redundant about writing a review for a movie like this – a blockbuster ending to a beloved series with marketing on hyperdrive doesn’t need much else to sell tickets. These types of instalments can sometimes feel critic-proof, which is what leads so many of them to be sloppy and… well… just not quite good enough.

Splitting the final book into two movies, Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2, was certainly the right idea – and not just in terms of moneymaking. Mockingjay carries the most action of the series, as Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) comes face to face with her inescapable destiny; an all-out war with the Capitol of Panem. However, the book also carries the emotional weight of the story as Katniss struggles with her intertwining destinies, discovering that there is no ‘right’ decision in war, and that suffering for both you and your loved ones is unavoidable. This salient point, probably the most devastating in this series of young adult novels, is lost in a movie that glories in tactical victories and focuses too heavily on Katniss’s love-triangle with Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Despite its long running time (137 minutes), the movie can’t seem to decide which story it wants to tell more – Katniss Everdeen: war hero, or Katniss Everdeen: lovesick teenager.

That’s not to say the movie is a total wash, as many of the scenes are handled extremely well, and the characterisations are generally spot on. Taken as a standalone, minus the weight of its source material, Mockingjay Part 2 draws all of the threads of story together to a satisfying conclusion. It brings us clearly from Katniss’ beginnings as a volunteer tribute in the first games to her final stand against a tyrannical system of government. Peeta’ rescue from the clutches of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in the last movie, resulting in his brainwashing and attempted murder of Katniss, adds a seamless flow between both parts, and the film hits the ground running. The trouble might be that there is just too much story to tell, and characters like Johanna (Jena Malone) and Finnick (Sam Claflin) fall by the wayside in an attempt to make sense of Katniss’ journey. Still, we spend enough time with Katniss and Gale, Katniss and Peeta, Peeta and Gale, and Katniss by herself to gain insight into how the events of the previous three movies have set the scene for the concluding chapter.

The sad loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who played Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee, during the shoot forced his character to take a back seat, but Woody Harrelson (as Haymitch Abernathy) and Julianne Moore (as President Alma Coin) ably fill the crucial moments with appropriate gravitas. Fans of the books will no doubt delight in pivotal scenes – the storming of ‘The Nut’ in District Two; the sewers of the Capitol; the Star Squad’s propos – while mourning the loss of others. Those who have followed the movies will get closure on their character’s stories, with enough surprises and shocking twists to keep interest high throughout the running time.

Exciting by times and definitely entertaining, the film has done enough to finish the series with a bang, but hasn’t quite lived up to its own hype. With so much talent at their disposal, a cast of fantastic actors, the budget to recreate terrifying mutts and epic battle sequences, a rock-solid narrative to work from, and an army of fans ready to be enraptured, Mockingjay Part 2 disappointingly falls short of its own potential.

Sarah Griffin

15A
122 minutes (See IFCO for details)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is released 20th November 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – Official Website

 

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

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DIR: Francis Lawrence  WRI: Peter Craig, Danny Strong  PRO: Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik • DOP: Jo Willems  ED: Alan Edward Bell, Mark Yoshikawa •  MUS: James Newton Howard  CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 follows on from the previous two offerings and follows the now standard tease of splitting the final instalment of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of novels into two separate movies. In Catching Fire, we witnessed Katniss’ disruption of the Quarter Qwell games and subsequent ‘rescue’. The film opens with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) still in recovery after her ordeal, struggling to come to terms with those who were left behind.  We learn about the destruction The Capitol has waged on all of the Districts – most notably Katniss’ own District 12.

 

This instalment is essentially a set-up for the final film. Whilst there are some intense action sequences, this film is more concerned with character development as we see Katniss slowly come to terms with her new status as a figurehead for the rebellion. Meanwhile, Liam Hemsworth’s Gale has wasted no time in becoming an action hero which leaves him just enough spare time to still wonder if his unfortunate love triangle will ever be disbanded.

 

Readers of the trilogy will wonder why it was necessary to split the final book into two movies, and cinemagoers will undoubtedly feel the same. This movie is, in-essence, a 123-minute trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two as it spends a great deal of time getting us up to speed with our protagonists and accustomed to new characters whilst building toward the film’s only true reveal which is certain to have fans lining up to see the final instalment.

 

Katniss’ trademark fierceness is somewhat lost here – she becomes a Shadow-Katniss as she struggles with having left Peeta behind. I can’t really judge her considering a recent quiz assured me that I would last no more than a day in the Hunger Games, but it is disappointing to not see the full force of such a well-loved character.

 

Jennifer Lawrence might be the world’s sweetheart at the moment, but it is Josh Hutcherson’s performance as Peeta, who has been captured and taken to the Capitol, which takes precedence here. Despite only appearing briefly he is utterly changed and his character takes on a multitude of nuances, which will endear him to audiences. There is an over-reliance on bonding moments between characters that have already had two movies to become close.  Welcome changes from the books were the additional scenes featuring Effie Trinket who is so effortlessly portrayed by Elizabeth Banks.

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is certainly not the strongest of the franchise but sets up the finale perfectly and ends at a point which will have both fans and newcomers to the series crying out for more.

 Ciara O’Brien

 

12A (See IFCO for details)

122 minutes

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is released 21st November 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – Official Website

 

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