So it ends here. After the intermission of one year, we finally get “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2”, which starts right from the point where the first part was over. While the end of the war is indeed coming, there are still so many things our feisty heroine has to endure, and the movie grimly follows her another rough quest with less interest and excitement compared to the better films in its franchise. It sort of delivers the ending as promised, but it is also hampered by trudging pace and weak characterization just like the first part, though its lead actress’s irrepressible presence is fully functional as before.
As many of you know, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a young, brave girl from District 12 with exceptional archery skill, found herself becoming the symbol of rebellion in her dystopian world while enduring and surviving her two perilous struggles in “The Hunger Games” (2012) and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (2013). As she drew more attention in public, things began to fall apart, and, despite his oppressive and manipulative tactics, President Snow (Donald Sutherland), the cunning and ruthless dictator of the Capitol, could not hold the center while 12 surrounding Districts started to stand against the Capitol one by one.
In “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” (2014), it turned out that there was a secret rebel force hiding in District 13, which was thought to be annihilated by the Capitol a long time ago. Because District 12 was nearly wiped out from the Earth along with many of its residents due to what happened in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, District 13 became a new place to stay for Katniss and her family who were luckily rescued in advance, and Katniss reluctantly stood beside President Coin (Julianne Moore), the rebel leader of District 13 who may not be as supportive of Katniss as she seemed at first. While President Snow is a common evil enemy for both of them, President Coin is not without her own ambition, and she certainly does not want Katniss to stand on her way to…. you know.
Anyway, after painfully experiencing what the Capitol has done to her fellow survivor and official lover Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss becomes more determined to get her revenge on President Snow, who has so far successfully destroyed nearly everything in her humble world as she knew before the Hunger Games. While the fall of the Capitol seems to be imminent especially after the surrender of its last loyal District (I still find it hard to distinguish one District from another in this dystopian world, by the way), Katniss wants to take care of the matter with her own hands, so she goes to the front line near the Capitol under siege.
She sneaks into the Capitol along with her friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and other Rebel soldiers, and dangers are hidden everywhere in the city because President Snow planted countless deadly booby traps here and there in the city. Katniss and her comrades are prepared for that in advance, but there is always the possibility of being ambushed by undetected traps.
As they advance into the Capitol block by block, we often see some of those CGI traps got sprung out onto them. The first several ones are pretty simple enough to evade, but then there is a big elaborate trap which begins to be operated mercilessly right after one wrong step. When our fighters go underground for safety later, there are also a fair of surprises waiting for them, while one action scene reminds me of how much I have been tired of a certain horror genre.
So this looks like another version of the Hunger Games, but the movie does not generate much tension or interest in its bland combat situation. While there was usually that uneasy tension between Katniss and other participants who could be turned into someone to kill her in the first two Hunger Games films, she is fully backed in this time by the people willing to help and protect her by any means necessary, and this is certainly a less compelling situation in comparison. The movie attempts to inject extra tension into its plot as Peeta is later sent to join the team even though he has not fully recovered from his problematic brainwashed state, but then the relationship between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale has not been a very interesting thing from the beginning, and Katniss’s eventual choice between her two men feel contrived to say the least (no, it is not her fault).
As a result, again, we get an overlong feature film which could be compressed into at least one hour without any serious problem. Without the style and flavor shown in the first two Hunger Games films, it is tedious and monotonous at times, and its final act actually could be more impactful in dramatic sense if Suzanne Collins’s novel, which was adapted by Danny Strong, Peter Craig, and Collins herself, were just made into one film instead of two films.
Nevertheless, Jennifer Lawrence diligently carries the film on her shoulder with her natural star qualities to appreciate. Despite the weak plot, Katniss remains as a strong female character, Lawrence aptly conveys her character’s feelings and thoughts through her open expressive face as Katniss faces more tragedies she will live with for the rest of her life. This remarkable actress who has constantly impressed us with several fabulous performance including her Oscar-winning turn in “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) makes an admirable exit for her character in the end, and she will surely move onto better things to come after this.
The supporting performers revolving around Lawrence do their jobs as much as their respective roles demand. While Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth stand around Lawrence, many familiars performers including Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Mahershala Ali, Willow Shields, Elden Henson, and Donald Sutherland come and go as having at least one moment for acting. Sutherland has a usual snaky fun with his villainous character who ultimately gets his last laugh in the spirit of “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948), Moore is untrustworthy as a coldly zealous leader capable of drastic measures just like her opponent, and Hoffman’s final performance is seamlessly presented on the screen although he died in early 2014 before the shooting was completed. I do not know whether his silent facial expression in the climax scene is CGI or not, but we can see how this intelligent actor who left us so early can find something interesting to play even during such a brief moment like that.
The director Francis Lawrence, who previously directed the first part as well as “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, and his crew made a slick, well-made product to satisfy its target audiences, but “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” does not end with a bang unlike the last Harry Potter movie. After “The Hunger Games” came out, several imitators soon followed, and it is not surprising to see that even this mostly solid franchise comes to lose its personalities in the end. Like Katniss at the end of the movie, maybe we should just keep remembering its good things including Lawrence.