Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2

If I wasn’t on hiatus at the time, I would have given The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 a 2.5 out of 5. While it was a competently made film that featured some great moments of both drama and suspense, it felt way too drawn out for its own good and spent a good portion of its runtime going nowhere fast. Obviously this was because the book in which Mockingjay, Parts 1 and 2 are based was split in half to get more of that crazy young adult cash. In doing so there was barely enough story left in the first half of the novel to fill out one movie. So how does the follow-up fare?

Picking up directly where the previous film ended, we learn that Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and a small team of soldiers are going to assist in taking back the Capitol on the orders of the leader of the rebellion, Coin (Julianne Moore). When traversing the Capitol proves to be troublesome they are forced to bring along the traitorous Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) due to his knowledge of the area. Surrounded by Capitol soldiers, thousands of booby traps and vicious muttations devised by the Gamemakers, the heroes find themselves participating in the most deadly Hunger Games of them all.
The answer to my previous question is… about the same. The novel, once moving past the set-up and getting into the grit of the war for Panem, was a non-stop barrage of action and violence. In the film we get an action scene, the characters sit around and whine for 20 minutes, another action scene, 20 minutes of whining, action scene, whining, etc. What was an epic battle on the page becomes a tediously drawn out and somewhat underwhelming finale of a film. Mind you, I don’t bring baggage to films like this (ones based on video games I’ve played, books I’ve read or television shows I’ve seen), but on its own merits this is a very uneven motion picture. Even after watching both films back-to-back.

Sure the acting is top notch from all involved. All the films have excelled in this department. Jennifer Lawrence makes playing Katniss seem effortless, Liam Hemsworth finally gets to shine in a much expanded role and Josh Hutcherson plays the unbalanced Peeta with equal parts earnestness and a surprising amount of menace. Donald Sutherland doesn’t have much screentime this time around, but his presence is definitely felt and he gives his scenes near the end a nice touch of evil desperation. Julianne Moore plays a variation of Sutherland’s character as one whose morals have slipped away the longer she fought for independence. Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks are barely in the film at all and basically show up for one last curtain call and that’s it. The rest of the cast is fine in their respective roles. I wish there were more for Sam Clafin to do as Finnick, but unfortunately the focus shifted away from him in this film.
There was a time where Francis Lawrence (Constantine, I Am Legend) was a great visual stylist in his films. When he took over The Hunger Games franchise he started off strong with Catching Fire and then he seemed to just care about getting the Mockingjay movies made as fast as possible. It shows in how bland the films look and the somewhat generic feel to everything. Scenes are rushed to move on to the next plot point (some of which should have been left on the cutting room floor). Sure he milked great performances out of his large and diverse cast, but he forgot that there are other aspects of the film that needed to be paid attention to as well.

When there is action it isn’t all that great and consists of the characters running away from something chasing them. There is one that stands out and that is where the main players are attacked in the sewers by wave after wave of faceless muttations. It’s very suspenseful and is presented competently when compared to the rest of the action beats.
The script adapts the novel in the most pedestrian way possible and expands what were short moments to break up the action into pointless scenes that seem to drone on forever. I am really not a fan of greedy film corporations feeling the need to compromise the integrity of a feature in order to line their pockets with cash. It didn’t work with Harry Potter (I wasn’t a fan of Deathly Hallows, Part 1 but liked Part 2 just fine) and it most certainly didn’t work with The Hobbit (I couldn’t even bring myself to watch the last two films after the travesty that was An Unexpected Journey). Sometimes brevity is a good thing, and the significantly lower grosses of the second Mockingjay film when compared to the first pretty much speaks volumes about how audiences feel when it comes to this matter. Stop splitting movies into two parts! It doesn’t work!

Regardless, the film (finally) gets to the thrilling finale where some crazy shit goes down (I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t read the books or seen the film yet) before the end credits roll. It’s ballsy and doesn’t take the easy route (which is why I feel most people complain about the novel), so I give it props for sticking to its guns. Outside of that the useless and overly cheesy epilogue still sucks no matter what medium in which it’s presented.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 isn’t a complete film. I mean, duh. It was broken in half so audiences would be forced to fork up to see a whole movie twice. As its own movie it’s slow and dull, only coming to life a handful of times before ending this film franchise forever. In my humble opinion it did not go out with a bang, but a whimper. There’s nothing wrong with the story, it’s just the way it’s presented to the audience that leaves a lot to be desired. If Lionsgate didn’t get greedy and let this final film exist as a two and a half hour motion picture I think I’d be singing its praises. Sadly that’s not the case.

2.5 out of 5

No comments:

Post a Comment