The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Movie Review
The tale of the girl on fire ends not with a bang but a muted spark. Yes, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is a dull, dour affair heightened only by inconsistent bursts of excitement.
If you were a fan of its half-storied predecessor, you'll likely be satisfied with the conclusion to the popular franchise, but Mockingjay Part 2 is too long and too choppy to warrant anything more than a halfhearted shrug. What's frustrating is that the movie, directed by Francis Lawrence, looks terrific--it's slick, well-choreographed and, piece by piece, scene by scene, it has all the makings of a great movie. Jennifer Lawrence delivers another fine performance, Josh Hutcherson is the best he's been in the four films and the story, at least in theory, has an urgency to it that was so lacking from the previous film.
But the decision to split the third book--which was really quite bad to begin with--into two parts for financial reasons does not benefit the film or, more importantly, us the viewers. Mockingjay Part 1 also had great elements but not much else to offer, while Part 2 supplies more action but the same sense that the story has been stretched way too thin. Inexcusable is that the movie is still two hours and 20 minutes long--about 20 to 30 minutes too long for the content.
Lawrence--the director, that is--delivers the goods at times, however. Just when I was beginning to think how bored I was by the movie--the first hour is a slog, even when the myriad of underdeveloped supporting characters are running for their lives from President Snow's traps--things ratchet up quickly when Katniss and her crew enter the tunnels of Panem. Why they didn't think to go into the tunnels sooner, or why Snow didn't think to booby trap the tunnels sooner, is anyone's guess, but the sequence is straight out of Alien and nearly as effective. It's a great sequence, though sadly the film loses steam once again moments later.
The film also does a better job than the book at explaining the evolving relationship between Katniss and Peeta.
Still, Mockingjay Part 2 is just sort of dull, each scene lingering for too long, the filmmakers seemingly obsessed with exploring the brooding nature of Katniss Everdine--an exercise in futility and one that grew old several films ago--rather than just making an exciting movie. As fun as it was to watch Katniss in the first two Hunger Games movies, she is such a depressing shell of a creature in this one it's hard to care for her much anymore. The movie itself is downbeat as well--yes, the film is about war, but it feels less energetic and engaging than the first two--and its commentary on propaganda and politics still comes off as forced and surface-level.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 isn't terrible, but that's what makes it so frustrating: with a few tweaks and a little more attention to pacing, it could have been an exciting conclusion to the franchise. As is, it's a flame that flickers and dies. Slowly.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.