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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: C+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B-
Special Effects: B

Well, now we know: there was really no reason to split Mockingjay into two parts. Last year's Part 1 was all buildup and no payoff, but what was a bit anticlimactic then was offset by the expectation that Part 2 would thus be no buildup and all payoff.

Instead, we get even more buildup. And that's way more than anyone needs in a 137-minute sequel to its 123-minute predecessor. This means that, with the two parts taken together, Mockingjay is a four-hour and twenty minute movie -- longer than Gone with the Wind and not half as epic -- which is about twice what any of us needed. Much like the final two Harry Potter movies (and then the final two Twilight movies), it's a transparent money-grab by the movie studios. The difference is that this time the result is far less satisfying.

It may be that this film follows the book well, but as always, it must be stated that a movie needs only to work on its own merits. And as with the films in the franchise that preceded it, there are plenty of great actors here -- Jennifer Lawrence continues to shine, if just slightly less brightly (is she as tired of these movies as I am?), as Katniss Everdeen; Donald Sutherland continues his blithe take on President Snow; Julianne Moore is solid as President Alma Coin, albeit having less to chew on. Plenty of other familiar faces have welcome returns but wind up with frustratingly little screen time for a story supposedly fleshed out over two movies: Elizabeth Banks's Effie Trinket got far better treatment in Part 1; Jeffrey Wright and Woody Harrelson are given almost token appearances. There's a few scenes with Philip Seymour Hoffman that do feel somewhat grafted in. Katniss's sister, Prim (Willow Shields), has a more pivotal role here than in any movie since the first in the series, particularly in the end, and even she gets very little screen time.

This time, it's all about Katniss's resolve to murder President Snow to avenge her loved ones. Snow is still tracking her, so instead of a conventional Hunger Games, the Capitol televising the battle between themselves and The Rebels serves as a sort of stand-in. But there are none of the previous production values here -- and, incidentally, even fewer actual battle scenes than in the previous film. Katniss opts to defy her orders to continue serving as a symbol in Rebel propaganda ads and makes her own way toward the Capitol, winding up with several other previous Hunger Games Victors. They make their way through evacuated streets, attempting to dodge booby trapped "pods" which, inevitably, start picking off this group one by one, just as in previous Hunger Games.

Mockingjay - Part 2 plays with some compelling themes that plenty of other movies before it have done far better. The same could easily be said of the original The Hunger Games film; it's just that instead of an unoriginal story about televised fights to the death (the twist this time being that they're children), now it's about the hero's increasing suspicion that she's being played by both sides, and there are no clear heroes or villains. The more pertinent point is that The Hunger Games series, in terms of outright entertainment, offer rapidly diminishing returns.

The acting is solid across the board here, but not enough to overcome, say, the clunky expositional dialogue in the first few scenes, or the fact that when it comes to story beats, it's just more of the same. The Capitol, in the beginning, was presented as a candy colored nightmare of superficiality, excess and callousness. Now it's just increasingly turning into piles of rubble. Alas, that makes it less interesting, a fact unchanged by weirdly flowing tidal waves of killer oil or genetically engineered humanoid subterranean monsters.

In short, Mockingjay - Part 2 will be required viewing for Hunger Games completists, many of whom will no doubt disagree with my take on it. But there's something inherently disappointing about a franchise that stays too long on the somber side of the fence it straddled in the beginning, the other side of which offered a healthy amount of humor. And humor is what this last installment sorely needed. The first couple of movies had their goes at gravitas but they were also fun. They're all ridiculous Hollywood movies, and Jennifer Lawrence clearly understands and appreciates that they made her the megastar she is today. It's just too bad the final installment had to take itself far too seriously.


Overall: B-
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