After the rebellion successfully claims District 2, the Capitol’s remaining military resource, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and the rebels infiltrate the Capitol to reclaim Panem and their lives from President Snow (Donald Sutherland). But taking the Capitol isn’t as easy as it seems. Snow’s Hunger Games gamemakers have laid traps all throughout the city, forcing the rebels to experience the same physical and psychological terrors the victors faced in the arenas. To make matters worse, Katniss grows more suspicious of President Coin (Julianne Moore) and must confront her true feelings for both Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).
When I left the theater after seeing this movie, I didn’t feel relieved, the way I normally feel after a trilogy or series concludes. Instead, I felt unsatisfied, as if there were something that should’ve happened that didn’t—although, for the life of me, I just couldn’t put my finger on what exactly. Now that I’ve had time to think, though, I realized it’s simply that Mockingjay is not a great conclusion to this story. But because it’s already canonized, I can’t imagine how it would have ended any differently, so I’m stuck at a point between acceptance and disappointment. Is this the fault of the book or the movie? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. Both, perhaps?
As I said with Mockingjay Part 1, a single movie would’ve sufficed for this story (See also: The Hobbit). There’s no justification for a two-part conclusion beyond the studio seeing $$ in their eyes. We could argue that splitting the final book into two parts provided creative breathing room in order for the movie to follow the book closer. But why do that when Mockingjay is regarded as the weakest of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy? Why not view the brevity of a single two-hour film (I’m aware of the irony in saying this) as a creative opportunity to condense sluggish material into a sharper film?
Here’s why this two-part setup doesn’t work from a storytelling point. The first and second acts of the book are all about setting up the third act with exposition and character development, and the third act is where the major plot points converge into the climax and resolution. Part 1 was just the first and second acts, which is why it was so boring. And Part 2 is just the third act. It literally hits the ground running. Yes, it’s exciting…for all of ten minutes. But two hours of climax pretty much ruins the thrill (and narrative purpose) of the climax. And just think…we waited a whole year for a third act!
Watching the Mockingjay double feature eliminates a lot of these issues, of course. While sitting for four hours straight isn’t that great, seeing Part 1 & 2 back to back makes so much more sense from a comprehensive standpoint. But that’s exactly my point about why the two-part setup is dumb. Viewing the two separately makes this story feel disjointed, abrupt, and like it doesn’t fit with the big picture. It’d be like making every chapter into its own movie (Shit, why did I even say that? I’m probably giving studios more bad ideas).
Regardless of the dumb filmmaking choice, Part 2 does still fit into the larger Hunger Games narrative, and it’s blockbustery. If you love nonstop action, this movie will keep you entertained. The assault on the Capitol is fairly thrilling. In fact, the scene where Katniss’ squad fights the mutts down in the sewers was terrifying and made me jump several times. And of course, there’s more love triangle shit that I know the YA audience eats up (But can we talk about how Gale and Peeta are the most boring dudes ever?). But more importantly, for the first time, Katniss does something meaningful without it being the result of someone else’s political agenda or an orchestration of Haymitch, Peeta, or Plutarch. It’s the moment I loved most in the book, and that feeling carried over with the onscreen moment (It’s also the moment that will undoubtedly shock non-book readers).
I will say this, though. While the action-packed finale kept things moving, it ultimately failed Katniss’ character arc. Part 1 focused entirely on Katniss dealing with PTSD from the games and the loss of Peeta, which, while not as exciting as the action, did further her character. But Part 2 glossed over the BIGGEST TURN in Katniss’ story (i.e., the death of her sister, Prim). Oh, sure. She shed some tears, screamed at the damn cat, and gave Gale steely eyes for his involvement in Prim’s death. But that’s it. You’re kidding me, right?!
Prim is the one person who Katniss truly loved. She’s also the one Katniss saved back in the very first film, which essentially kicked off the events that led to the entire rebellion. Prim is the lifeblood of Katniss’ story, yet she gets the least amount of grieving because, hey, we have to keep it moving to get to the Peeniss (my couple name for Peeta & Katniss) forever in love epilogue. Seriously. You’re telling me you’ll have Katniss run around for the entirety of Part 1 crying about Peeta, but she doesn’t get more than two minutes to cry about Prim? This is what I’m saying about Mockingjay being weak.
Final thoughts? PLEASE DON’T DO PREQUELS, GODDAMNIT.
Overall, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 brings this franchise to a close, but it didn’t close as nicely as other franchise films. A lot of that falls on the sloppy writing of Suzanne Collins’ final novel, which the movie had the chance to improve upon it but didn’t. That’s why I’d say Mockingjay Part 2 is just aggressively okay. It’s action-packed and leaves us with a sunny epilogue to brighten up the darker and more vengeful aspects of the film. But the charisma of some of its better characters is missing, and there’s a major miss on character development for Katniss that I can’t get past. Let’s just point fingers at the production company for moneygrabbing with an unnecessary two-parter, which made this movie seem like an overhyped climax.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2: B-
For my radio review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 on “Pat & JT in the Morning,” visit this link (starts around the 22:54 mark)