“[T]he violence is all over the place and only sporadically interesting”

by Steve Pulaski

As I walked into a matinee showing of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” I couldn’t help but take note of the diverse audience that made up the showing. There were people of all different ages, the youngest maybe seven, the oldest probably seven decades older than that, and the audience of about thirty was decidedly mixed in terms of race, as well. It wasn’t until I sat down to endure the final part of “The Hunger Games” film franchise that this has been one of the most successful young adult novel film franchises since post-“Harry Potter,” and after this film leaves the theaters, it’ll be a while before another film intercepts the hype. The “Divergent” series is close, but doesn’t have the staying power, the immense box office draw, nor the pop culture relevance “The Hunger Games” does, even now, when its popularity in terms of being the “gotta read” book has simmered.

Speaking as someone who has been entranced very little by this particular franchise, its conclusion won’t make me shed any tears or lose any sleep. Since Gary Ross paved the way for the franchise in 2012, I’ve been cruelly underwhelmed in some regard by each film in this franchise mainly because young adult fiction isn’t my thing; I like my literature with more of a gritty realism edge and “The Hunger Games” always seemed like it was capitalizing on a generation that found the idea of a government manipulating and taking advantage of its citizens new and unheard of. In each installment, the drama has either felt stilted and unbelievable, the action too dominant, the camerawork too uneven, or the overall effect and takeaway ideas stunningly minimal.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
Directed by
Francis Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Release Date
20 November 2015
Steve’s Grade: C-

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” will not make a fan out of people like me, who were simply waiting to get this franchise out of the way and move on to better things, but to say it’s entirely joyless and void of some discernible charm is a bit of a stretch. Picking up where the inert non-event of a first part left off, this film opens with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) struggling to speak after severely straining her vocal chords in battle. After a few minutes, however, she more or less regains her ability to speak, like a main character in a TV show with a grave physical ailment that need be remedied in the blink of an eye to help move the story along, so that kind of traumatic opening is pretty foolish to include.

With that, the nation of Panem is in the mix of a brutal revolutionary war, with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) proposing her plan to assassinate President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in order to fully settle all the governmental nonsense and class warfare that has taken place for decades. Katniss unites her closest friends, including Gabe (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick (Sam Claflin), Cressida (Natalie Dormer), and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who is still experiencing severe mental problems and bouts of uncontrollable rage. Despite the fact that previous winners of the notorious Hunger Games, like Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Johanna (Jena Malone), control much of Panem and are uniting its citizens, large-scale change will not commence until President Snow is assassinated. Katniss and her band of followers also must find a way to avoid the boobytraps set by Snow and President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), the new ruler and commander of Panem.

“Mockingjay – Part 2” plays much like a video-game when it focuses on action sequences; most of the combat in the film feels like the kind of predictable, cause-and-effect nonsense that prohibits a film’s violence from being immersing to just plain boring. Being that this film is also PG-13 and meant for the people who were about thirteen or fourteen when they read the book, you can also be sure that desperately little is developed or really shown.

The romantic trite from both “Catching Fire” and the first part of “Mockingjay” is thankfully traded for more development towards the relationships of Katniss, Finnick, Cressida, and Peeta, and things become fairly interesting when we see that Peeta’s dual personalities make him a ticking timebomb of a partner in terms of whether or not he actually wants to help Katniss or kill her.

If you manage to invest yourself in all the drama occurring in the film and the often poorly lit and unclear violence that interjects the latter, than “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” is a worthy recommendation. My problem here is that at the conclusion of this franchise – which really should’ve been last November because splitting this film up into two parts resulted in nothing but two almost equally empty and forgettable films – is pretty anticlimactic and melodramatic, as Katniss goes from being a fearless warrior, a sniffling baby, and a content housewife in a matter of about three or four scenes. At the end of it all, the drama is never particularly compelling, the violence is all over the place and only sporadically interesting, and the fact that these two films combined is an affair over four hours is absolutely nonsensical.

I return to my point that I was probably never going to be a fan of “The Hunger Games” franchise after not particularly loving the second film, though it’s probably the best in the franchise. I’ve never found much connection in this series, and find, for all the acclaim Jennifer Lawrence and Katniss get, that she plays a terribly bland character with little else other than an archetypal warrior presence attached to her empty description of being “courageous.” But at the end of all of this, by the fourth film in this franchise, you should know if you want to see it or not without my help.