This will be a fairly short piece, as I’ve already written three long reviews of the earlier movies in The Hunger Games quadrilogy and I haven’t got enough enthusiasm to write another; that and the fact there are so many opinions doing the rounds online for this film at the moment the last thing anyone needs is to read yet another one (but hey, I’m committed to writing about everything I watch, so here we are). Anyway, it’s a series that I have grown less fond of as the years and installments have stacked up, and I firmly believe the high watermark was achieved by the first film‘s mix of Diet Coke Battle Royale and YA-friendly meandering about the power of propaganda and state-controlled media. The actual hunger games stopped taking place after the second movie, Catching Fire, but propaganda is still a major theme in Mockingjay – Part 2, which sees heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) aiming to end the reign of evil, oppressive dictator President Snow (a suddenly-giddy Donald Sutherland) over her dystopian world.
The story begins directly after the turgid Mockingjay – Part 1, and some of the slow, ponderous discussions that dogged the first half of the two-part finale can be found clogging up Part 2‘s first act; this does at least mean we get one last look at Philip Seymour Hoffman, even though these surely won’t be the films he’ll be remembered for. It looks like director Francis Lawrence eventually realised that he was supposed to be making an entertaining blockbuster, and despite the presence of sullen Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a character so dreary I want to drop kick him as far as Venus every time he appears on screen, Part 2 finally injects some life back into the flatlining story: suddenly it’s awash with traps, explosions, standoffs, shootings, character deaths, sewer monsters (a genuinely thrilling action sequence that reminded me of The Descent) and, just when you’re hoping a woman who looks like a tiger will appear, a woman who looks like a tiger. Yet while it seems we are building to a grand, loud, explosion-filled finale Part 2 climaxes early and peters out with another half hour of the boring stuff: strategic meetings around tables, meetings in jail cells and holding rooms, meetings in greenhouses and one final dose of Mellark that’s as welcome as a fart in a skyscraper lift. At least it’s the last time we have to watch Katniss staring at Peeta and The Other Bloke with all the enthusiasm of someone looking at a restaurant menu and trying to decide whether they want concrete or creosote as their main course.
If you saw the first three I dare say you’ll be watching this, or you’ll have seen it already, so it doesn’t really matter what I say about Part 2 anyway. It is what it is: the highly-anticipated end of a successful serial (in financial terms) and a film that manages to tie up all the loose ends, but ultimately a damp squib, despite its entertaining middle. Now we’re safely on the other side The Hunger Games looks a little bloated and overly serious to me. Sadly the capital city of this world (initially introduced as a city full of interesting-looking people and interesting-looking things) has been gradually reduced to nothing more than an evil old man’s lair, with huge crowds suddenly appearing out of nowhere in order to line its long, Roman-style main square. Lawrence has been fine, and has shouldered the burden of carrying the series, but the films have struggled to do justice to the vast number of supporting characters. Those played by Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks seemed to define the flamboyant, slightly silly tone of the first and second films, but their stylish eccentricities are completely at odds with everything in the more dour Mockingjay films, and have been sidelined, while Woody Harrelson’s character seems to have had all the life sucked out of him and has become ever more inconsequential. Jena Malone and Jeffrey Wright’s characters barely get a look in, their appearances nothing more than ticks in a ‘to-include’ list, and the job lot of actors imported from Game Of Thrones fare worst of all. Back to Westeros with the lot of you!
Directed by: Francis Lawrence.
Written by: Peter Craig, Danny Strong. Based on Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Natalie Dormer, Stanley Tucci, Mahershala Ali, Wes Chatham, Eldon Henson, Michelle Forbes.
Cinematography: Jo Willems.
Editing: Alan Edward Bell, Mark Yoshikawa.
Music: James Newton Howard.
Running Time: 137 minutes.