The final installment of the Hunger Games series is here and well, while it’s certainly not a bad movie, it’s also not a great one. This is especially sad as it continues from the excellent Mockingjay – Part 1 (when I say “continues” I’m not kidding, it begins almost immediately after the last film’s climax). The problem is, like many adaptations, Mockingjay – Part 2 suffers from too much fidelity to the source material.
The same issues that made the novel – more specifically the back half, not coincidentally – so frustrating are all on full view here. Katniss’ complete lack of agency in any “decision” she “makes” save one particularly big one. The Lord of the Rings-esque trudge to the villain’s HQ. The dumb resolution to the dumb love triangle. All these and more!
Characters frequently do things because the plot requires it and not because of any kind of internal motivation. An exception is a heel turn that’s so telegraphed and obvious that there might as well be actual red flags behind the character in every shot. And, oh my god, there are long stretches of the film that… just… drag… on… forever.
Unfortunately, the biggest problem with the film isn’t even the fault of anyone involved. Sometimes the timing of a movie’s release can lend a bit of context that no one intended. It was… uncomfortable at times, watching a movie about insurgent forces attacking a major population center only a week after what happened in Paris. A coincidence that’s made even more awkward once you remember that many of the film’s action scenes were shot in that same city. When the villainous President Snow talks about how the rebels are so ideologically different from the pampered and opulent citizens of the Capitol, it’s almost impossible not to shift in one’s seat.
Of course this is not to say that the film is bad or unwatchable. As I’ve said before, director Francis Lawrence found his niche when he took over the Hunger Games series and stopped making pretty but not very good movies like Constantine. His eye for design and action are all very much back, most notably in one scene where Katniss and her unit of soldiers and cameramen are attacked by monsters. It definitely looked like he rewatched I Am Legend decided to fix what he got wrong (visually at least, that film was a mess top to bottom).
Despite not taking enough liberties, where Lawrence does deviate works very well. He did an excellent job hiding the loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman part-way through filming. Some of his lines and scenes were given to other characters. Sometimes his scenes were simply excised and at least once (most obviously at the end of the film) he was inserted digitally to stand in the background. One of the most crowd-pleasing moments came with a throwaway exchange between two side characters added solely for the shippers.
Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is definitely worth your time. How worth it depends on your level of love of the franchise. It, like the novel it’s based on, is the weakest entry in the series. But bad Hunger Games is still pretty damn good. Just, you know, temper your expectations.
I give it 6.5 ARROWS out of 10.