Review: The Hunger Games – Mockingjay (2D)

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So The Hunger Games follows the lead of Harry Potter and – its own spiritual nemesis – Twilght, and splits its final chapter in half. The result… is not surprising.

After the events of the trilogy’s second act, Catching Fire, Katniss wakes up surrounded by new allies with dubious motives. She desperately wants to rescue Peeta, who has been taken by the tyrannical Capitol, but her allies want her to become a symbol of strength and hope for the downtrodden Districts.

Compared to the first two films, this one feels like the most grim, realistic interpretation of the themes involved. Mockingjay Part 1 is a bleak, visually monotone and narratively reserved; there are lots and lots of visuals depicting death and destruction, we see heroine Katniss standing in a field of burnt bodies and skulls, we have executions and brainwashing to drill into our heads that The Capitol are vicious.
Wow. I never would have thought I would say that, the incompetent villains are actually evil here, we actually get a real sense of uncompromising tyranny that could rule over millions of lives. The threat is finally real, and there’s a sense that Katniss really must choose, that her fate is now entwined with the fate of all the Districts.

But this whole cutting the chapter in half nonsense continues to not work. My prevailing memory of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 are those of stale, dull, elongated moments (mostly camping in the forest), and Mockingjay Part 1 is no different.
Scenes are stretched, padded and unnecessarily quiet and dull. When watched in a vacuum this only makes the persistent thought of “this isn’t going to conclude” all the more apparent. Most of the film is about Katniss trying to get over tension and shock to become the poster girl for a rebellion. There little to no combat or action, because this is only the first and partly second act of a complete film.

I boycotted this film’s release on principle: the first two films had uneventful segments, and if they boost that uneventfulness into one entire movie, I will be both bored and unsatisfied. While the film didn’t quite bore me as much as I thought it might, it was as unsatisfying as I expected.

Perhaps the best part of this film is the twisted dynamic between Katniss and Peeta. While it does not have the same power as Catching Fire‘s celebrity gossip themes, it is this film’s greatest asset. Although I do have a soft spot for stories that literally corrupt heroes.

The Capitol finally have fangs, and the film benefits tremendously from the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and newcomer Juiliane Moore, Jennfier Lawrence too maintains her multi-layered Katniss very well and there’s a good sense of continuity with Catching Fire.
But I refuse, I refuse to believe this is better as two parts. A screenwriter worth his or her salt could compress this into a single film, perhaps the longest film in the series but at least that’s not the ridiculous cash grab that is two incomplete films.

Each Lord of the Rings book was a single film!

I went into Mockingjay Part 1 with cynicism, and unfortunately it didn’t change my overall opinion enough. Sure, I fully admit I am too old for this series (if I were thirteen I’d be all over it, and completely smitten by Ms Lawrence) and if I were a fan I’d be chewing my own arm off to see the conclusion. But in terms of singular films, which this must be rated as, it is nothing spectacular.

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Additional Marshmallows: Hey! That’s Netflix/Marvel’s Daredevil‘s Elden Henson as the mute Pollux.

 

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The Hunger Games series finally reaches its conclusion… and you know what… it was pretty darn good in the end.

With District 13’s recovery of Peeta and the other prisoners from the Capitol, Katniss faces the final assault on President Snow’s residence, the city wide invasion of the Capitol, and the potential consequences of the war…

I watched Mockingjay Part 2 within twenty-four hours of having seen Mockingjay Part 1 for the first time deliberately; I was tired of studios splitting films in half and wanted to experience the final chapter as one experience. As it happens, I may have massively improved my appreciation for Part 2 in doing so.
Up until this point I had most appreciation for Catching Fire, while flawed it captured what the Hunger Games could be (compared to the first film) and Part 1 was monotonously slow. However Part 2 is likely the best of the series!
It has all of its predecessor’s grey, bleak palette, but unlike Part 1 this film actually does something with its characters. The Capitol’s ruthlessness is played out with impromptu Hunger Games traps within a ruined city, as well as a pure horror sequence in the sewers! Glorious, tense and you know what… I actually cared about the characters.
Now perhaps this is because I had just watched Part 1 and Catching Fire recently, but since characters are maintained and developed over two films, the finale is very prominent and effective. Katniss is eventually put in a very morally grey place, and as someone who didn’t read the book, I wasn’t entirely sure how things would end.

Thematically we have completely ditched the Hunger Games, we are now talking about war, the preciousness of life and the people who strategise and coldly decide what is right and wrong. Even Part 1’s use of the media to blind citizens is abandoned for this finale experience, replace with Katniss becoming a symbol to be used, and the corruption that comes with power and revenge.

All great, dark stuff, the sort of tone that I felt was lacking in the first two films, and the sort of stuff I enjoy. Not because I am a gore hound, but because I like to see characters battle against the odds and that is literally what Hunger Games is about.

But, and there’s always a but, it is a Part 2 and that still irks me. Thinking back I can barely remember anything from Part 1, and I still believe that with a good screenwriter this could have been one film, a long film (likely three hours) but at least one film. That way the emotion can build in one sitting, completing the experience.
Of course, the argument can be made that the book is longer, and these films have apparently done a damn good job at accurately adapting the stories (the adaptation was done by the author, after all!) so perhaps it did need two films to do it justice.

But that doesn’t stop me from feeling irked by it, and it breaks flow.

But this is a very minor problem, to be fair. I actually really enjoyed the film, mostly for its climax that was surprisingly thought provoking and very neatly done. The camerawork is good, the design work is nice, the acting is consistent with the other films, and it did immerse me far more than the previous films.

Ultimately, the three previous films benefit from this excellent conclusion; I can forgive some of their past transgressions. Well, most of them. Good job, Mockingjay.

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Additional Marshmallows: In the end, I am fairly sure my two favourite characters remain as Haymitch and Effie.

 

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