In the words of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, one of the greatest philosophers of our time…..
Heather has returned to the movies!
Because of all my goddamn injuries, I haven’t been to the theater to see a movie since July, which is all sorts of ridiculous. That may not be that long for mere mortals, but for a pop culture blogger whose bread and butter are movie reviews that is a long freaking time to be MIA. I had thoughts of attempting a movie a few times when I had my cast, but then parking and then getting into the theater just seemed like too much of a hassle; it didn’t help that there weren’t that many movies that I was dying to see during that time period. But I missed writing my reviews and hopefully people missed reading them, so I’m glad to be back in the saddle. I apologize if you made some terrible movie going choices in my absence.
I’ve gone to early screenings for all the previous Hunger Game movies, so I was determined to make it out to see the final installment. My sister-in-law hooked me up with a ticket to an early screening of Mockingjay Part 2 on Wednesday night, which was an added bonus because I’d get to go with friends and that meant I had some moral support as I navigated the theater for the first time in three months (I’m still using one crutch and wearing an ankle brace). Plus as much as I love going to the movies by myself, it’s also nice to share the experience with others to discuss what you all just witnessed. As we chatted before the movie, I discovered that I’d forgotten quite a bit about Mockingjay since I read it several years ago. It wasn’t my favorite book of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy and while I could recall some of the big stuff, there were plenty of other details that I didn’t have much memory of. I’m willing to bet that I was the only person in the theater who was surprised by some of the characters that meet their demise in this final film. In some ways, that probably added a little more suspense.
Mockingjay Part 2 is the darkest and bleakest film of the franchise, which is saying something when you consider that the first film had kids killing kids for other people’s entertainment. While the earlier films could focus more on the lopsided love triangle – seriously, did anyone ever think that Gale stood a chance – and quips from Effie and Haymitch, there is very little of that in Mockingjay Part 2. The franchise has definitely earned this moment, but the final film is definitely punishing. Of course, the timing of the release of Mockingjay Part 2 less than a week after terrorist attacks in Beirut and France lends even more resonance to the rebellion depicted; when President Snow mentions refugees, it’s hard not to think of the current debate in America over those fleeing Syria. There are some very exciting actions sequences – the attack in the sewer systems stands out in particular – but there is a very deliberate pacing of Mockingjay. In a lot of ways, it has more in common with a horror movie than an action film; the constant unknown threat and the knowledge that just around the next corner could be mortal danger lends itself to the constant rising tension in the film. You know something bad is going to happen and the anticipation only ramps up those feelings of anxiety.
There is also a weariness that hangs over Mockingjay Part 2; at this point, these characters have been through so much and that has most certainly taken a toll on them. This is nowhere clearer than the performance of Jennifer Lawrence, who wears the burden of being the Mockingjay like a second skin. There is an exhaustion that shrouds Lawrence throughout this film, the culmination of becoming an accidental rallying cry for a rebellion and of being unsure of who she can in fact trust. Lawrence can convey more with a look on her face than lesser actresses could do with an entire soliloquy; so much of the performance of Katniss rests on her physicality and Lawrence does a great job. Josh Hutcherson also does an outstanding job of showing the inner conflict in Peeta, as he tries to rectify what is real and what is not after his reprogramming after being held hostage in the Capitol.
That all being said, I think that Mockingjay Part 2 is the weakest entrant in the franchise. Part of that is the result of the blatant money grab of splitting the final book into two movies. There is a lot of filler in here to make two full length movies and the seams show where they tried to stretch things out. Splitting Mockingjay in half also has the unfortunate side effect of putting all the interesting character development and plot in the first movie and not leaving much other than some action sequences for the second. Mockingjay Part 2 was the first Hunger Games movie where it felt long and I was consciously aware of the time. In more than one scene, the camera dwells on someone’s face for a beat (or five) too long. Mockingjay would have been a much better film overall if it was one cohesive story; as it was done, the whole is lesser than the sum of its parts. A lesser Hunger Games movie is still pretty good, but the franchise is definitely running on some fumes as it crosses the finish line.
Some other thoughts:
- Seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman again on the big screen was both welcome and depressing. It doesn’t seem like he’s been gone nearly two years.
- I never made the connection before, but seeing the ending of Mockingjay Part 2 made me realize that E.L. James probably ripped off that book off as well in her Fifty Shades of Grey books (nor am I proud that I read all three of those terrible books).
- I’d watch a movie that gives some context for the final scene between Effie and Haymitch. They’re holding out on us!
- I always thought that the Mutts that were released in the Hunger Games were supposed to look like dogs, but unless I missed something, in Mockingjay they look like the creatures from The Descent (props to my friend Stacy for making that comparison). They are terrifying, but not at all what I had pictured.
- Actually, a lot of what I had pictured reading Mockingjay didn’t exactly match up with the how they depicted it on screen, but the visual representation actually made some of what happened in the book a little clearer.
- Poor Jennifer Lawrence – I hope she finds work now that The Hunger Games movies are over (or are they?). 😉
The Hunger Games series could have ended a little stronger, but Mockingjay Part 2 is still a very enjoyable film. Strong performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson as well as some really cool action sequences help make Mockingjay Part 2 good, but the fact that there just wasn’t enough compelling material to tell this story in two movies ultimately drags the film down. All good things must come to an end and while Mockingjay Part 2 doesn’t reach the same heights of the previous films, it is a fine way to send Katniss and company off into the sunset.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 opens nationwide today.