2016.25: The Hunger Games-Mockingjay Pt.2 (Blu-ray)
Well, I’m glad I watched Pt.1 the night before, because after twelve months I would have been pretty well lost dropping straight into this one as there is no re-cap at all; the viewer is just thrown into it as if having watched Pt.1 immediately prior (which would be a looong double-bill, incidentally). These serial storylines are problematic and just assuming the audience is up to speed could backfire and it certainly hampers the storytelling. The fans will be fine but casuals like me, well, we need a little consideration. You don’t get a huge multi-million dollar franchise just working to the hardcore crowd, after all (maybe Lucas was on to something with those introductory crawls in the Star Wars films).
Anyway, two questions spring to mind. Does this film work as a separate film, and does it work as a conclusion to part one (and the films prior to that)?
Well, as a separate film it’s clearly problematic. Mockingjay Pt.1 has set things up and Pt.2 needs to be immediately up and running and finding a resolution to everything- which would be easy enough had the film only got to last ninety minutes maybe, but this thing is again over two hours long. So just as in the case of Pt.1, there is plenty of padding here, uncomfortable lulls as the film slows things down when it should (or had Mockingjay been one film) be racing to a conclusion, reaching for that resolution.
Just when things seem to be happening it often seems to make a clumsy side-step. A handy foil against finishing everything seems to be the still-unconvincing love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale which repeatedly threatens to bring the film to a stuttering halt (that said, I can’t say I was ever particularly convinced by the romance between Katniss and Peeta in previous films either). I just accept all the romantic drama nonsense as an indication of the original novels being aimed at a teenage female audience and try to ignore it but it’s something of a problem for the films when the central relationship doesn’t convince. By the time the love triangle is resolved it is with a distinct sense of anticlimax anyway.
These lulls in the plot and problems with pacing also occurred in Pt.1, which does make me wonder if there might somehow be a fan-edit one day assembling Pt.1 and Pt.2 into a workable single film. Even if it were two and a half hours long or more it might work better with superior pacing. There clearly isn’t really enough material in Pt.2 to really justify releasing Mockingjay as two separate films, particularly with all the treading water plot-wise of Pt.1 already. Suspicions that it was a greedy studio trying to crank up some extra box-office from the material seem well-founded. Looking at it the other way, had Mockingjay been released as one film, and then released as two extended cuts as we have them today, would those extended cuts be well-lauded, or contain important scenes that fans were desperate and glad to finally to see? I rather doubt it.
So I have to wonder if Mockingjay Pt.2 is perhaps stretching things just a film too far.
In anycase, this film concludes the Hunger Games saga of what has become four films. As such, how does Mockingjay Pt.2 fare? Well, its a mixed bag really. I guess the biggest surprise to me is the sense of self-importance the last two films have-it reminds me of what happened with the Matrix films. By the time Mockingjay comes around it’s all very serious and momentous and stodgy. Indeed, is it just me or does Jennifer Lawrence actually look bored throughout this film?
I welcomed the examination of the importance of propaganda, about what is real and fabricated in order to marshall and influence public opinion. How the public seem to instinctively look for a leader, an icon. How the end justifies the means and how leaders hide personal agendas. There’s some very interesting stuff there that I didn’t expect. Unfortunately its all rather an intellectual exercise and lacking in any emotional value. What began as a thrilling dystopian future with people fighting in life and death arenas for public amusement and the status quo has by Mockingjay Pt.2 been completely ditched in favour of a rather dry tale of political skullduggery, of opposing campaigns using Katniss and Peeta to influence the masses and further their own agendas.
There is one sequence in the sewers that feels like something out of Aliens and is one of the highlights of the whole saga, but there isn’t really a lot else that thrills or recaptures the excitement of the first film. Part of it is the self-importance and profundity of Katniss and her cause as she attempts to finally bring President Snow to justice. It just threatens to drag the whole thing down into maudlin melodrama. Or is this is because Katniss seems to have become, incredibly, actually rather irritating, unable to take charge, simply accepting that she is being used as a political weapon. Perhaps she is supposed to be broken and traumatised but there are moments where she seemingly cannot think for herself, or take charge of her own destiny. Hardly the definition of a hero.
As realistic as that may be intellectually, it doesn’t really lend itself to a great heroine in a grand adventure. By the time the final twist occurs it doesn’t really come as a surprise, and the film lacks, shockingly, any real emotional punch at its end. Characters die and we feel very little. For a saga spanning four films this seems to be the biggest sin of all. There is no valediction, no fanfare, as Katniss finally walks into the proverbial sunset in a love affair that didn’t really convince me anyway, so it all felt rather shallow. The ending satisfies on an intellectual level but fails on an emotional one. For a saga aimed at teenage girls that really surprised me.