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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2

November 20, 2015
Mockingjay Part 2

This is the way The Hunger Games ends
This is the way The Hunger Games ends
This is the way The Hunger Games ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Although actually there are a number of bangs in Mockingjay, Part 2. It’s just that most of them don’t feel that notable. The biggest, most climactic one is still followed by something like a half-hour denouement that worked a lot better on the pages of Suzanne Collins’ novel.

Before that point, though, it’s a long, slow crawl. In a sense, that’s as it should be; Mockingjay is Collins’ attempt to deconstruct the false glory of war and the desire for revenge, using the ever-present internal monologue of Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence in the movie, for those not paying attention yet) to lead her readers through the ideas. But as I’ve been saying all along, the internal monologue doesn’t translate well to a teen-oriented CGI-fest. The more abstract the problems Katniss is working through, the less it works, and this argument is abstract enough that a huge chunk of the adult American population has yet to understand it.

And so, for an “action” movie, most of the action is reduced to a dull slog as Katniss and crew make their way through booby-trapped streets to the center of the Capitol and the palace of President Snow (Donald Sutherland), whether or not that’s the way rebellion leader Coin (Julianne Moore) wants it. The high point is a claustrophobic sewer-run that owes more than a little to Aliens, capped off with a chaotic fight scene.

Along the way, the story tries to play up the Team Gale (Liam Hemsworth) vs. Team Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) conflict that never really worked as a marketing gimmick the way Edward/Jacob did for Twilight, again largely because most of what distinguishes the two in Katniss’ mind is in, well, her mind and not in dramatically different eye-candy presentations. Without direct access to her thoughts, all the life is sucked out of these relationships.

The other major source of plot and character development takes place almost entirely within that extended denouement I mentioned. Sutherland and Moore get in some of their best work in the series here, and the points do come across, if more clumsily than Collins originally wrote them. The series manages to come around from venting the righteous indignation most of its teenage audience can identify with, to grappling with the much harder question of what to actually do with that anger. As far as they fall short of the novels, The Hunger Games movies manage to stand above the rest of their genre.

Still, they do fall short, and each one falls shorter than the previous one. As young-adult dystopian novels, the story made better, more thoughtful use of the genre’s tropes than its peers that pandered to typically teenage impulses. But as action movies, thoughtfulness isn’t really their strong suit. Maybe some day we’ll get another cinematic treatment that really does make the most of the books’ strengths. I’m not expecting a monolithic, four-hour Malickian epic any time soon, and I know that the producers’ target demographic would never go for it anyway, but if it comes I’d watch the hell out of that version.

Worth It: if you’ve seen the rest, you may as well finish it off.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: pass.

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