The mammoth phenomenon that, three and a half years ago, kick-started the trend of teen dystopia movie adaptations has finally reached its conclusion. The dystopia trend is still raging strong today, and shows almost no sign of relenting, yet, this final part of the final chapter of the girl who began it all feels past its prime -- and about a year overdue. The beginning of the end (in more ways than one) was the first Mockingjay movie and the decision to split the story into two movies. Did that decision help the movie-makers adapt the slightly bloated and chaotic last book more accurately? Absolutely. Was it worth it? Well...
|Stick with me and we'll find out! Or die trying!
This film centers on Katniss and co. as they give their all to one final push in the war against President Snow. It starts out with the exact same dull, droning tone that Mockingjay Part 1 gave us. I was surprised at this for about two seconds before I realized that expecting this film to be more exciting when it was filmed at the same time as the last one was totally unrealistic. I kept having this conversation in my head: Me: "This is boring and I don't care about it anymore." Me: "Okay, but at least try and view it from an unbiased perspective so you can review it." Me: "Fine." Five minutes later, Me: "This is boring!" Eventually I realized that my unbiased opinion is just that -- this movie was sluggish and dull and lifeless for more than half of the run time.
The cause of this probably came a lot from the two-part-stretch, but I also noticed that it had a lot to do with characters. The interesting, lively characters were sidelined in favor of the characters that were neck-deep in dark, heavy drama. Katniss is capable of, and has been a lively character is the past, but the movie inexplicably toned down that side of her here. For the most part she looks like she's sleepwalking through the plot. It can't be Jennifer Lawrence's fault though -- she's just too good at being depressed and despondent. When she breaks out of that rut and absolutely kills a scene at the end, I wished that Katniss had been present for more of the movie.
|Unfortunately even Jennifer Lawrence can't carry a movie all by herself.
Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) are also pretty despondent too, as they spend the movie moping -- Gale, because he knows he's losing the love-triangle battle, and Peeta, because he randomly and unwillingly flip-flops between being a good guy and a bad guy. The book's quick dismissal of Gale always bothered me, and the film does nothing to combat that. After Katniss doesn't kill him when he asks her to, and after he (possibly) inadvertently causes Prim's death, their last conversation only touches on his side of the guilt. Though I did love the delivery of Katniss' line that dismisses him forever. On Peeta's side, things often get too mushy and verge uncomfortably on cheesy as they set up for Katniss to finally choose him, but still they don't properly cover the best of their drama. At the climax when he prevents her from killing herself, the potentially powerful moment was sadly rushed and glossed over.
|I guess the film lost sight of its best features: it's powerful moments, and it's fun, memorable characters.
Relatively new characters get first priority for screen time and development, and Natalie Dormer, Elden Henson, and Mahershala Ali stand out. Old favorites only really make appearances. Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) lights up the screen when he's there. Johanna (Jena Malone) is just begging for more screen time. Effie (Elizabeth Banks) gets to show up, but doesn't get to be her usual amusing self. Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) goes full villain in his cameo-length part. Donald Sutherland and Julianne Moore keep things professional as their respective Presidents. Finnick (Sam Claflin) tries to make the most of it, but is mostly ignored before being given the same disappointing throwaway death he got in the novel. Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) practically doesn't even exist. Even Prim (Willow Shields) -- the one sure-fire sucker-punch -- isn't developed enough to get the best reaction. As the characters serve their purpose as the novel dictated, they fade away, unimportant. One novel was made into 4 hour, 20 minute film, and yet there were no character expansions.
|I can only guess that the film makers were literally too scared of the fans to make any changes at all.
The only thing that was deemed worth expanding, it seems, was the action sequences -- though still minimally. The action in general though is really what makes this film worth watching over reading the book. They are visually cleaner than the book's hectic descriptions, and are a welcome break from lingering shots of deadpan faces. Ideally, this and the last film combined could be at least a half-hour shorter, and that extra time was picked up mostly by making each event -- each shot -- last just a little longer. It did nothing to add to the content of course -- a ten-second shot of Katniss' face is just as descriptive as a two-second one. It's like they were too lazy to add any new content, but also knew that a movie must be over 2 hours in order to be an "epic," and these movie have to be epics.
So after an hour and a half or so off all that, we finally get to the tide-turning final battle, and the climactic aftermath, and finally, the film gets good. This is what we were waiting for, and it didn't disappoint. Because it was the best parts of the book, it was the best parts of the film. They showed it all like the book demanded, and everything fell naturally into place. I finally fully understood the scene where Katniss votes in favor of the symbolic Hunger Games. Then Plutarch's letter, read out by good ol' Haymitch, and the fan-pleasing moment between Haymitch and Effie. The way they showed the slow progression of time as life starts to find a place again with our heroine and her fellow District 12 victors was simple, and genuinely great. And then that final scene, that gives us full circle feel for the final resolution, as Jennifer Lawrence delivers one last monologue, as the woman who used to be Girl on Fire.
|Girl -- fire. Fire -- girl. For the last time.
It is important to note, that though I give this film and Mockingjay Part 1 the same star score, and though my review of Part 1 may sound more positive, I definitely consider Part 2 to be the better of the two films.
It got really messy there for a while, but managed to wrap it all up in a satisfying way -- the exact same satisfying way the book did of course, but redundancy is underrated. Actually, it's not, but it is forgivable. Especially in this case when the franchise was so tired for so long I actually thought it would sleepwalk right though the end, but, thankfully, it wound up waking up just in time to conclude with a bang almost loud enough to cover up the previous sounds of snoring. So, no, I don't think the two-part split was worth it, but all things considered... there are worse games to play.