The Hunger Games is a strange entity, as a book series and a blockbuster movie franchise. Both have exploded across their respective mediums with runaway success, yet for the life of me I can’t understand why.
Before I get pegged by a hailstorm of explosive arrows or tossed into a pit of Mutts, let me clarify. I liked the Hunger Games. I thought the books were decent enough, which in turn resulted in a movie series that remains startlingly close to the books. Same verdict: decent enough.
Certainly not groundbreaking. Not artistically exciting. Neither a thrill ride nor a snorefest, but something in between. So the ‘worldwide phenomenon’ tag attached to it remains an enigma to me. That being said, I read the books. I’d seen the first three movies. So it went without saying that I’d finish things off with the final chapter.
The trailers for Part 2 would have you believe this film is jam-packed with action, but that’s simply not the case. Yes, there are more action sequences than the lackluster Part One, but they take place toward the end of the film. In the meantime we get a lot more of Katniss’ struggles with Peeta, who is still partially brainwashed, and being the propaganda puppet that is the Mockingjay.
But the lack of action isn’t why the film suffers. There are ways to make character downtime and interaction both intense and captivating. Unfortunately, the filmmakers don’t make use of those tactics. Part of the fault lies in the two-part division. The final chapter should never have been split in two, and the two chapters suffer from the Hollywood money grab. Had it been a single 2 1/2 to 3 hour film, the scenes would have been much more tense and suspenseful. Instead there are long pauses in the film that feel like time gaps being filled in for lack of anything of substance.
But the film marches on, determined as Katniss to get to Snow’s mansion and the climax of the film. Book readers were bracing themselves for that moment of tragedy and triumph, and I’m sure moviegoers who had never read the books were truly shocked by the deaths of certain characters, particularly the most poignant one.
And here is where Hunger Games stands apart from others in its genre. It is a study of the effects of war, disguised as an action film. So it goes without saying that the price of victory is grim. And when the realization of the truth truly sinks in, it is staggering. We have seen the exchange of one brutal regime for another in real life, so the complexities of the Snow/Coin relationship truly shines in the film. I wish there had been more interaction between the two.
But ultimately it is the story of Katniss, and Jennifer Lawrence dutifully portrays the character, adding subtleties in performance that enhance dialogue that doesn’t do much to stand out. I never liked Katniss as a person in the books or the film, and that’s probably why I couldn’t get into the story as so many others could. Katniss is dutiful and resourceful enough, true. Full of grit and determination to achieve her goals. But likable? Not so much, at least to me.
And unfortunately, none of the supporting characters get much of a chance to shine, either. Each has a brief moment in the spotlight, but not enough to make much of a difference other than Peeta, who finally is able to establish himself as a fully-fleshed character, at least in the film. (The books do a much better job, naturally.) The dynamics between him and Katniss are able to sustain some of the weaker moments in the film, though the changes in her from suspicion to affection came across as greatly rushed.
Overall, Mockingjay 2 is a fairly decent film. Despite some unnecessary drags, it provides some solid entertainment and allegory that is worth discussing. Whether the pros outweigh the cons will be determined by another viewing, I suppose. But that won’t be for a while. Because at the end of the film, I felt pretty much exactly as Katniss did.
Glad it was finally over.
When Bard Constantine isn’t consumed by pop culture, he writes gritty futures and far-flung fantasy. See more at bardwritesbooks.com