For the most part, final chapters get a bad rap. All sequels do, since they’re condemned to live under the shadow of the original no matter how good they may turn out to be on their own. Still, public opinion declares the concluding episode is in almost all aspects the worst one of the bunch. That’s because tying loose ends in a satisfactory manner is hard even for the most experienced storyteller. Making matters worse, the authors are competing with their fan base’s preconceived idea of a proper finale. All this makes it rather pointless to ask whether The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2, the final adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ series of YA novels, is better than the first Hunger Games film, the impressive follow-up Catching Fire or even Mockingjay — Part 1, the previous installment in the series. We can only analyze whether Part 2 holds up on its own.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 in a Nutshell
Some backstory for the uninitiated. No longer being kept in line by the sadistic spectacles of rose-loving despot President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland), the Districts of the dystopian future-state known as Panem are in full-blown rebellion and marching towards the Capitol. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), former Hunger Games victor and unwilling rebel pin-up girl, is in recovery from being nearly choked to death by brainwashed Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), co-champion and would-be love interest.
Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), President of District 13 and leader of the uprising, is seemingly content to keep using Everdeen, along with all remaining game victors, as cheerleaders and far away from the action. Her rebel propaganda strategist, Plutarch Heavesbee (the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman in his last role) seemingly shares this thought. However, Katniss and Gail Hawthorne (Chris Hemsworth), her BFF and love-triangle-bachelor number two, have other plans. They wish to be the ones to reach Snow’s mansion, kill the sick bastard and end this destructive conflict themselves. Easier said than done. They’ll have to infiltrate a Capitol that’s been heavily booby-trapped and transformed into a deadly game arena, a Hunger Games to end them all.
Split Down the Middle
In case the title didn’t already give it away, this is the second half in a two-part adaptation of the last volume from a three-book saga. This makes The Hunger Games movie series a four-part trilogy. (Douglas Adams must be snickering in his grave right now.) Splitting a beloved novels into two or more movies is a recent cinema trend pioneered by the Harry Potter series. Even when done by expert craftsmen, this practice often feels like a cash grab to squeeze book fans dry. (Looking at you, Hobbit trilogy.)
I read and liked all three of Collins’ books. I believe the Mockingjay adaptation could’ve worked as one movie. Fifteen extra minutes of running time would’ve filled us in on the relevant details. Katniss’ role as the face of the revolution. Peeta’s rescue. His brainwashing. I share the same opinion about Stephenie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows even though both are unread by me.
Cutting the Filmmakers Some Slack
However, after watching Mockingjay — Part 2 and thinking about all the nice things I had to say about The Twilight Series: Breaking Dawn, Part 2, I’ve come to a surprising conclusion: it’s not the filmmakers’ fault.
Why cut them in half, then? Because it’s all about keeping the fan base happy (which my niece and my daughter-in-law fervently represent). Novels as a medium are unbound by temporal constraints. Authors can pile on twists, turns and flourishes in their narrative to their heart’s content. Therefore, a split finale is really the only way to make sure you show the fans all their favorite moments from the book (the Hanging Tree song, for example) and give each of their beloved characters a proper send-off.
What’s important is that Mockingjay — Part 2 is quite better than its previous chapter. Both as a standalone film and as a faithful part of the Hunger Games saga. All the cast, both young and old, has grown so well into their roles that almost immediately I lost touch of them as actors and saw only their characters. Only Hoffman registered as Hoffman. Not because of a flaw in his performance. Rather, out of a morbid fascination to discover where exactly he was “filled-in” to account for his untimely passing. (The Brandon Lee Effect, if you will.)
The production, as always, is top-notch in every department. It’s especially nice to see how Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend), the man behind all but one of the four HG films, has grown as a director. In essence, he rehashed the same exact concept three times in a row. Miraculously, he made it feel different on every single outing. He knows instinctively when to take his time in character development. Also, when to speed the pace before the kiddies fall asleep. He keeps this up at least until the inevitable final stretch. By then, scenes from the book are checked off his list for the sake of fan service.
To sum up, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 is decent entertainment. More importantly, it properly wrap-ups the Hunger Games film saga. It’s no Catching Fire (there I go again comparing), but it’ll do. More importantly, it’s a dignified bookend for a very cool female action film heroine. I’ve mentioned recently how very hard this is to come by, even now. The film aims toward the heart of all fans of the Girl on Fire, my own girls included, and it doesn’t miss a shot. The odds truly are in its favor.
Now showing only in theaters.
Movie title: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2
Movie description: The fourth and final Hunger Games film is a fitting end to the saga, even when it slows down to tie up loose ends.
Date published: 2015-11-21
Director(s): Francis Lawrence
Actor(s): Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Dormer, Mahershala Ali, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction