Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 (2015)

The final installment of The Hunger Games films has arrived and, like the novel it was based on, it leaves its audience wanting. 

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Ever since 2012, the world has been obsessed with the arrow-shooting, girl on fire, Katniss Everdeen. And why shouldn’t they? Katniss is a strong character; a female empowered by her own self-taught  prowess and personality to bring change to a country that desperately needs it. Ever since reading The Hunger Games in college, I have admired the character of Katniss and thought “We need more female heroes like this!”

I’ve enjoyed the past three films of this franchise, but for various reasons, this was an unsatisfying end to a rather enjoyable film franchise.

You Talking Smack About The Books?!41k66TFC43L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Yes. I am. About one particular book, in fact, the final book: Mockingjay. And before you type your angry comments at me, go and talk to anyone else who has read the book. Ask them if they were happy the way the book ended. Most likely, the person you are asking is going to say “No, I did not like how the book ended.” Because it was rushed, it felt forced. Everything was resolved far too easily and with very little exposition. The book kind of just ended.

What does this have to do with the movie? We’ll get to that. I just wanted to offer an explanation of the first sentence above.

The Love Triangle

This has been an annoyance to me since the first film. This Twilightesque love triangle between Katniss, Gale, and Peeta. It just shouldn’t exist. In fact, it doesn’t exist in the book, because it isn’t needed. Gale plays a much more prominent role in the movies than he does in the books and while that’s all fine and good, the resulting love triangle creates a very frustrating character flaw in Katniss that she doesn’t really need.

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I compared this love triangle to Twilight and I honestly think that is why the love triangle exists. Poor character development and the subsequent rise in sanguinarian lifestyles aside, the Twilight books and movies were very popular. The filmmakers of The Hunger Games movies obviously wanted to capitalize on that and draw some parallels between the two franchises.

But the two franchises couldn’t be more different.

Where Bella Swan is a passive, confused character, Katniss Everdeen is active and confident. Where Bella cannot decide between Sparkles McGee and I’m-A-Shapeshifter-Not-A-Werewolf-Tim, Katniss knows which of the boys in her life holds her heart and she doesn’t play that game.

I’m not going to belabor this point because I have more important issues to get on to in this review, but this love triangle really irks me and its one of my least favorite themes in the entire movie series.

Also, kids: love triangles don’t work. You will end with broken hearts, bad memories, and mistrust. They do not always end as cleanly as these movies portray. Don’t play the love triangle game. 

This Movie Didn’t Need Two Parts

Following a trope that was started by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows back in 2010 and 2011, the filmmakers decided to split Mockingjay into two parts. A move I think was rather unnecessary.

It makes sense why the filmmakers did it: the same reason Peter Jackson split The Hobbit into three movies:

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It is known that people love The Hunger Game series. Why not split the finale into two movies to make more money at the box office? People will still come to see it.

But let me explain why they didn’t need to split this book into two movies: Because the first two movies weren’t. Mockingjay is no bigger in size than the previous two books. So, in splitting the one book into two, you are forced to employ that awful f-word that anime watchers know too well: filler.

For those of you unaware what filler means, it is cinematic fluff, story-telling cushioning, basically the characters doing things that add nothing to the plot, but offer a chance to explore their character just a teeny bit more. This story doesn’t need it; nevertheless, filler was employed to make Mockingjay into two parts.

Alright, so I’ve talked a lot about the movie’s relation with its literary predecessor. And I’m sure you’re thinking “I thought I came here for a movie review, not a book critique!” Well, let’s get into the actual movie then, shall we?

Creepy, Spooky!!

The Capitol is a messed up place, man. It is a place high on its own indulgence and falsely accrued self-worth. In layman’s terms, they are America. They are spoiled. They are fat. They are soft. The parallels between Panem and America are glaringly obvious. The entire series is a critique on America’s culture of indulgence and our general obsession with death and watching other’s squirm in pain (see any reality TV Show). Suzanne Collin’s novels use clever sci-fi tropes to turn the spotlight on its audience and make us examine ourselves. (Much like Disney/Pixar’s Wall-E did with Buy-N-Large and the overweight people hovering around in space, completely disconnecting from everything except for their mobile devices.)

1cc63bbbdff656a401d6d201b63e2dfeSide note: Can we talk about that Covergirl campaign from a few years ago? Where they were actually selling Capitol-themed makeup? Can you think of a great example of irony? I was amazed how people just didn’t get that this movie and its themes were being completely misunderstood by the consuming public.

But back to the point: The Capitol is a freaky place. As much as we see America in it, we should be scared of it. I think The Capitol has been displayed brilliantly throughout the series with their gauche makeup and extravagant attire, and just really bizarre forms of entertainment and entertainers (I’m looking at you Caesar Flickerman).

But even more freaky than The Capitol is The Capitol’s creations: the mutts. There is a very intense scene where Katniss and her allies encounter a group of mutts (or mutated monsters) bent on killing her. Even before we see them, the audience is put on edge by the distant, faint whispering of Katniss’ name. Whenever the monsters finally revealed themselves, I nearly jumped out of my seat. (It was probably my favorite part of the movie.) The entire scene felt very Aliens to me and that was wonderful.

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There is also a scene with a lady that has modified her body to look like a tiger. They way she moved and talked was terrifying that was very well executed.

Spoilers Ahead!

Now, some of my frustration with this movie stemmed from specific instances in its narrative. If you have not seen the movie, read the books, or otherwise want to be surprised when you do see this movie, I suggest you skip ahead past this section.

!!!SPOILERS BEGIN. YE HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!

Why? Just Why?

As was said above, splitting this movie into two gave rise to fillers, and fillers give rise to material that diverges from the book it was based on. So, why didn’t it change the parts of its narrative that should have been changed?

Suzanne Collins regrets killing off Finnick Odair (my personal favorite character from the books). She is even quoted as saying “He will not die in the movies. That will help undo my mistake.” So, then why does he die?

The filmmakers diverted from so much other material in the book. It seems like saving Finnick would have been an obvious thing to do.

A Little Heavy-Handed, Don’t You Think?

All throughout the movies, this one particularly, Katniss is juxtaposed against not just President Snow, the ruler of the Capitol, but her own ally, President Alma Coin, of the Rebellion. The purpose behind it is very beautiful. What is more dangerous to a government intent on leading its blind governance? An intelligent, independent thinker. Katniss represents what both Snow and Coin hate. And slowly it is revealed that both causes, both political parties, have their flaws and neither is perfect, and (in the end) we see that both use evil to justify their means. A very powerful theme.

However, at the very end of the movie, Katniss asks to execute President Snow after he has been captured. Coin is presiding over the execution at this point, we know she ordered the bombing of innocent children, ultimately resulting in the death of Katniss’ sister. The audience hates Coin and may even be a little sympathetic to Snow at this point.

Then, we get this very heavy-handed and obvious presentation of Katniss’ choice to kill both Snow and Coin. Coin stretches out her hands and gives this long speech about how Katniss needs to let her arrow fly true and strike the true terrorist to this nation and how evil has been done and how she must correct it and basically overselling the obvious point that Coin must die. The entire exchange goes on too long and by the time Katniss does bury her arrow into Coin’s exposed chest, the audience is saying “Thank God!” Not because it needed to happen (which it did) but because we as an audience were bored of hearing her prattle on.

Allow me to compare this scene to the end of Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi. Throughout Episodes IV – VI, Darth Vader has been a bad dude. He’s, like, real bad and he’s a perfect villain. (Much like President Snow in this series.) Then, the Emperor comes along and we’re like “Wow! He’s really bad!” Then, we have this beautiful scene where the Emperor is electrocuting Luke and Darth Vader is passively watching. The tension grows and we watch Vader look back and forth, back and forth. Then, he grabs the Emperor and we think “Oh snap!! This just got real!!!” It’s a wonderfully executed scene and still gives me chills. (Mind you, this is before the stupid “No, no, no!” edit…)

The “Oh snap!” moment in Katniss’ choice to kill Coin comes far before she actually shoots the arrow and by the time it happens, the shock has worn off and the death is not as effective as it could have been.

!!!AND HERE THE SPOILERS END! YE MAY READ ANEW!!!

Emotional Moment? More Like LOL!

As emotional and climatic as this movie was, there just some moments that were, for lack of a better word, cheesy. There were moments of crucial plot and points where everything was hanging in the balance of Katniss’ choices and instead of feeling the impact of it, the audience found themselves laughing.

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There was a disconnect in many different scenes. Towards the end of the movie, Katniss is bitterly weeping (for reasons that you will find out when you see the movie). It’s ugly and very real. It’s not cute. I applaud Jennifer Lawrence for being able to display such raw emotion in Katniss at this moment, and she starts to yell angrily at someone in the room with her. We as the audience should be misty-eyed and weeping along with Katniss, but instead we laugh. I saw this movie as an early/midnight release (whatever they call it now). The people in this theater are the diehard Hunger Games fans and, yet, they were all laughing at this moment. When your film fails to connect and becomes cheesy, there’s just something wrong.

All Too Easy

The resolution to this movie and its problems is far too easy. The momentum of the rebellion, of Katniss’ actions, and of the irreparable damage caused by The Capitol is all resolved by a letter written by Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character. It is obvious that Mr. Hoffman was supposed to star in this scene, but that it was shot after his very untimely and sad death.

However, even if Mr. Hoffman had been included in this scene, I don’t think it would have changed anything. Stuff happened and stuff that happens like that just doesn’t get resolved or swept under the rug. I felt the very same way after finishing the Mockingjay book and I had hoped that this movie would serve its audience a better ending, but unfortunately, it could not.

Instead of resolving the problems of the previous four films or leaving us with a feeling that things will get better, the idea that things are better is kind of force-fed to the audience and we have to grin and bear it until it is swallowed.

The Acting

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The Hunger Games series really has a stellar cast and each actor plays their character flawlessly. Jennifer Lawrence has done an excellent job at portraying Katniss for the past three years and she has had a wonderful supporting cast to help her. Missy Pile, Julianne Moore, Woody Harleson, Donald Sutherland, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Josh Hutcherson were all the perfect choices to portray their respective characters and there couldn’t have been better choices to play them. Even though I was disappointed that Robert Downey Jr. did not get the chance to play Haymitch, Woody Harleson proved my disappointments unnecessary.

I have to give a standing ovation to Josh Hutcherson who had a knock-out performance as the emotional, confused, and imbalanced Peeta Mallark. His quiet mutterings, wild rampages, and restrained fury perfectly portrayed Peeta’s tortured soul in this movie.

The Music

James Newton Howard returns as the composer for the final film’s soundtrack. While I cannot remember any outstanding themes or musical motifs in this film (such as the wildly popular “The Hanging Tree” from the last movie), I feel the music added to the tense scenes and action of the movie.

The Kids

Is this movie family-friendly? -sharp intake of air- I would say no. With a specific scene in mind involving a chase through the underground between Katniss and her allies and a pack of mutated creatures. It is really scary. Children will have nightmares.

Besides that, there is a lot of violence and some that could be too shocking to comprehend or even to explain to your little one.

The Grade

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 was action-packed and tense, but it was a lackluster end to the series. It failed to capitalize on many themes and fell flat in numerous areas. Ms. Lawrence’s portrayal and those of her fellow actors were memorable and will surely be remembered for years to come, but they were unfortunately not able to save this film and make it a great ending to a great series.

I give The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 a…

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What do you think? Do you have anything you would like to add with what I said above? Did you think this was a good ending to The Hunger Games series? Let me know in the comments below!

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