‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2’ Review | The Search for More Subtitles
[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers.]
The Hunger Games have ended, and they have ended awkwardly. This popular franchise has been hit or miss from the beginning, sometimes air balling the action and sometimes kicking tons of ass, and sometimes approaching the complexities of propaganda with a deft touch and sometimes hitting us over the head with them like a giant squeaky clown hammer. But at least the films were never downright disappointing… until now.
As you probably know by now, rather than simply adapt the last Hunger Games novel into a single film, Mockingjay has been split into two parts. (Ostensibly this was for artistic reasons, but let’s not pretend that the idea of making twice as much money off of a single initial investment never entered into anyone’s head.) The first Mockingjay was all set up, so you might presume that the second would be all payoff. And you’d be right, if by “payoff” you mean “non-stop action that turns out to be completely pointless.”
To recap: Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has just rescued Peeta Malarch (Josh Hutcherson) from the evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland). The time has finally come to storm Capital City and put an end to this war once and for all, so now Katniss and Peeta and romantic also-ran Gale (Liam Hemsworth) are joining forces with a team of supporting characters, most of whom only exist to die at key intervals so the stakes will seem elevated.
Capital City has been booby trapped with ridiculous death traps left over from the The Hunger Games, so that getting to President Snow to assassinate him is nearly impossible. Fortunately, everyone is willing to sacrifice themselves for Katniss’s mission. It is an important mission, we are told. Every death is meaningful so long as Katniss completes this mission. This mission is everything the Hunger Games movies have been building towards for three-plus motion pictures.
And then – spoiler alert – the movie ends the exact same way it would have ended if Katniss hadn’t even got out of bed at the beginning of this film. All of these action sequences and all of the death and sacrifice were completely meaningless. It would be a pointed commentary on the futility of war if A) the film ever acknowledged how much of a buzz kill this turn of events was, or B) it weren’t so incredibly dissatisfying.
Imagine if we finally got the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, and Harry was about to confront Voldemort one final time, and then the Ministry of Magic swooped in at the last minute and resolved the entire conflict on their own. Sure, it sets the protagonist up to deal with one last important twist, which is (to be fair) handled cleverly and dramatically in Mockingjay – Part 2, but the impact of the film as a whole is irreparably damaged.
The sad thing is, if Mockingjay hadn’t been split into two parts, it’s easy to imagine that this exact same conclusion would have worked perfectly. It’s only a let down because we spent two hours building to a plot point that, if Mockingjay were a single film, would have only been set up for an hour or so. This isn’t a cautionary tale about the evils of war and propaganda, it is a cautionary tale about the dangers of padding.
Sure, the action is cool, but to no end whatsoever. Sure, the actors are all convincing in their roles, but their time has been wasted. And yes, the actual ending of the story is thrilling and thoughtful, but it would have been even more effective without all the unnecessary dilly-dallying.
When all is said and done, The Hunger Games have been a mixed bag. As a delivery system for an inspiring heroine, amidst a popular culture that doesn’t have enough of them, it has been flawless. As popcorn entertainment, they have been more-or-less satisfying. As individual films, or taken as a whole, the inconsistencies of pacing and tone have been outright frustrating. As a commentary on the pervasive untrustworthiness of advertising, they were truly subversive… but only until the franchise was used to advertise luxury cars.
Top Photo: Lionsgate
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.