Hunger Games: Mockingjay (2015) : Fickle Finale
Another one bites the dust. Yet another YA novel franchise reaches its ultimate conclusion. I say ultimate because technically this film had an ending to its ending. Yes this is another adaptation that took it upon itself to split the final part of its saga into two films, part I and part II. Of course, this was done because the story was just too epic to be told in the standard 120 minutes. Maybe I’m a cynic, but I doubt it was for artistic purposes. More likely, it’s because making the split gives you two box office debuts to draw from. Taking apart a narrative that was intended as one whole, doesn’t seem like the best strategy for quality storytelling.
Of course, since this film is ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2’, it already has the added ‘umph’ of a finale to make it more worthwhile than its immediate predecessor, which ultimately felt like a set up for the payoff that is this film. At least that’s the intent. The story picks up immediately where the last film left off and sort of feels like it experienced a year-long intermission.
Peeta has rejoined our cast of rebels and the fight must continue on against the evil oppressive capitol. This time, in place of an actual ceremony, the de facto Hunger Games is in the form of a series of booby traps set in the path of our valiant heroes. Along the way there are betrayals, twists, and of course a love triangle to top it all off.
The first third of this movie is very slow. Everything that was part 1 of Mockingjay is present in these scenes. There’s a lot of speech making, propaganda filming and decision making that isn’t so much boring as it is mind numbing. Don’t get me wrong, watching the development of a large scale rebellion from an underground bunker COULD be interesting, but the fact is, these scenes are largely ineffective. The trouble is, we as an audience are told time and time again how important Katniss is to the rebellion. The people’s champion. The spark that ignites the flame to burn the Capitol to the ground. But that’s the thing, we’re TOLD that. We’re never shown how effective she actually is, and there’s never really any sense of the outside world. Everything in this movie feels like it occurs in a vacuum when it should feel like the stakes are raised.
In fact, there’s actually a scene where the movie itself recognizes this. Towards the end of the first act, Katniss asks the character of Joanna “Why do you hate me?”, Joanna gives her a response that essentially voices the franchise’s harshest critics, mentioning that Katniss herself is hard to swallow and references the trite love triangle that plagues this series. It’s even more blatant when Katniss makes a decision that shifts the focus of the plot to something more focused and action oriented, an all-out assassination of series baddie President Snow. Joanna, along with the audience replies “That’s more like it”.
The second act does indeed pick up. As I mentioned before, the Hunger Game in this film is essentially the booby trapped streets of the Capitol. Mechanisms called pods are put into place that release deadly traps throughout the city. This is actually where the film is most interesting. The characters come across these traps as they make their way closer to the heart of their opponent. The springing of these traps are filmed like a horror movie almost, with each springing feeling like a jump scare of sorts. There are even moments where the frame suggests a jump is coming, and it’s the expectation that scares you more than the jump itself.
Aside from that, the action is filmed superbly. The fight scenes are tense, coherent and engaging. It definitely gets your blood pumping as the film is very good and making you feel the danger the character’s face. The pace is good in that regard as the film never lets their characters stay in one place for too long, and doesn’t feel as though there are any wasted scenes after that first act.
This being the end of the series there are a few tropes that come along with finales. There is an epilogue for example that gives you an idea of the characters after the conflict is over. The way to do something like that well is to not make it too abstract and focus it on characters that are worth the added script pages. Thankfully though, Mockingjay Part 2 hits all the emotional beats it tries to hit. Even with regards to the resolution of the conflict, the movie is successful. Although you don’t need to be a film major to anticipate the pivotal moment, it was still tense. One of those moments where knowing what was going to happen didn’t soften the blow.
This movie isn’t perfect. It has a first act that drags, and there are few moments that bugged me that were just personal preference really…just things that would’ve made the decent moments great ones. Truth be told, film is well put together. The second half is exciting and nerve wracking yes, and the actors do a good job in the roles they’ve known for the last 3 years. However, the same things that bog down the rest of this franchise are present in this movie, but I suppose that’s par for the course at this point. Fans of the series will be satisfied and will go to see it no matter what. I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of this franchise, but I did enjoy myself regardless.
Rating: Half Price