Saturday, November 21, 2015

End Game: “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” Improves Upon Its Predecessor

Fans of popular film series these days tend to get the shaft. The last book is always adapted into two films so that the studio can milk as much money out of the consumer as possibly. And we’re not talking Lord of the Rings sized books here: Mockingjay is 400 pages. It’s not War and Peace. Therefore, it becomes difficult to judge the Mockingjay films – both parts – without acknowledging that they are essential one unnecessarily long film that is cut in half. Luckily, Part 2 fares much better than Part 1. Unfortunately skipping Part 1 is also detrimental to getting the most enjoyment out of Part 2. So is “Mockingjay – Part 2” any good or what? The answer is yes, as long as you don’t compare it to series high-point “Catching Fire.”

The obviously highlight of the entire Hunger Games film series are the hunger games themselves. The immoral concept that children and teens are forced to battle each other to the death in a purposely controlled and dangerous environment for the entertainment of a disgustingly corrupt and malicious government and its richest people makes for fascinating discussion-worthy cinematic entertainment. Unfortunately, the hunger games went out the window at the end of the second film as the rebellion started in full swing. You get the sense that the rebellion is what author Suzanne Collins was getting at all along – this is a series that is about so much more than children being forced to kill each other. It’s also thankfully about much more than a girl having to choose between two guys, though it’s about that too. The hunger games themselves is what I personally find so fascinating about this series; the rebellion is the next logical step, yet far from the story’s most interesting ideas.

Part 2 picks up literally right where the last film left off with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) locked up and completely brainwashed. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence, looking somewhat bored as if she could play the role in her sleep by now) and her fellow rebellious members of District 13 are ready to finally make their move to the capital to dethrone the evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland). We finally get to see two of my favorite characters get the screen time they deserve including Johanna (Jena Malone) freshly rescued from the Capital and Finnick (Sam Claflin) who gets married before setting out for battle. Effie and Haymitch around too but seem underutilized.

This film feels much like a war film with a small group of soldiers making their way across the booby-trapped rubble of the Capital. These scenes, reminiscent of the traps set by the hunger games’ sadistic gamemakers, are the definitely highlight of the film and feature some pretty successful sequences including an Aliens-like venture into the dark, pipe-riddled sewers of the Capital. Director Francis Lawrence doesn’t deviate much from the style he inherited yet made his own when he took the reins on the second film. And the film’s screenplay is thankfully less talky and way more action heavy than Part 1.

Most importantly, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2" is a fitting ending to this well-loved series. None of the other young adult novel-turned-film series have even come close to capturing the deserved success of this generally fantastic set of populist films. The film has it’s dark and grim moments and there are some shocking turn of events for those who haven’t already devoured the books but the film ends as positively as could come from such a gloomy story. Overall, Part 2 is a success though without any actual hunger games the champion remains “Catching Fire” as the defining film in a film series that has rightfully captured the hearts and minds of so many.  GRADE: B+
Trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 on TrailerAddict.

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