Movie review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Before you read this post, there’s a spoiler warning: I discuss scenes from the book and the movie, including the ending. These scenes are discussed in detail. If you want to be completely surprised, stop reading now! But if you’ve read the book and/or you don’t mind spoilers, read on….


In true movie franchise style, the adaptation of the final Hunger Games book was split into two movies: Mockingjay – Part 1 and Mockingjay – Part 2. I finally got round to seeing Part 2 last week, and it was almost exactly as I had expected. While I’ve been a fan of the series since I read the books in 2011, the last book is arguably the weakest and splitting it into two movies was a mistake. In my opinion, Mockingjay – Part 2 lacked the suspense, grittiness and plot strength (including the political symbolism) of the first two movies.

To begin with, I’ll briefly summarize the movie, before discussing certain points in more detail. The first portion of this movie is devoted to talking and strategizing, as well as briefly touching on Katniss’s struggles after Peeta was ‘hijacked’ by the staff of the evil President Snow. In other words, he was tortured and brainwashed into believing that Katniss is a Capitol mutation who needs to be killed, which would conveniently get rid of the Mockingjay – the symbol of the rebellion.

Mockingjay

Mockingjay: the symbol of the rebellion

Then, the Capitol scenes begin and the movie is almost non-stop action as Katniss and her band of rebel soldiers fight their way through the Capitol in an attempt to put an end to President Snow’s dictatorship. During this part of the movie, a tense chase through the Capitol sewers, pursued by gruesome ‘mutts’ (mutations) really pushes the boundaries of a 12A/PG-13 certificate.

It finishes with an epilogue that is very close to the book: Katniss cradling a baby in a sunlit meadow. She watches Peeta playing and laughing with their two-year-old son, as she murmurs to her daughter that someday she will explain why she still has nightmares that will never go away.

The movie is broadly faithful to the book, with the exception of one of the ending scenes when Katniss votes ‘yes’ to a final, symbolic Hunger Games with Capitol children as the tributes. I had forgotten this and it was a surprise. Surely Katniss herself, the figure of the rebellion, couldn’t be advocating more bloodshed. However, in the book, it is clear that she only votes yes to gain President Coin’s trust, whom she later kills with an arrow.

The movie also skips over Katniss’s suicide attempt, breakdown and solitary confinement, which makes me question why film makers thought it was suitable to include intense and graphic action sequences, but not these more gritty scenes of PTSD and shock. For me, that is one of the main criticisms of the movie — I would have preferred more realism, following Katniss’s inner monologue in the book.

Mockingjay_Part_2_Poster

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 theatrical release poster. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

Overall, it was satisfying to watch this movie wrap up the series, but it doesn’t pack the punch that I was hoping for — a punch that I’m sure could have been achieved if it hadn’t been divided in two.

Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen) is outstanding as always, and the older characters are well-cast. In 2012, I wrote a review of the first Hunger Games movie (you can find it here) in which I expressed doubts about Donald Sutherland as President Snow. I wrote that:

The on-screen President Snow doesn’t display enough menace and isn’t cold enough to realistically make the audience believe that here is a man who is happy to command the bombing and torture of innocent civilians, not to mention overseeing the barbaric Hunger Games.

However, in the subsequent movies he effectively portrayed the wide-reaching power and oppression of Snow’s dictatorship. Also, Julianne Moore was an excellent choice for District 13’s initally supportive but power-hungry President Coin. I was less convinced by Josh Hutcherson as Peeta — his relationship with Katniss never quite seemed believable enough, compared to the books. Perhaps that’s simply because Jennifer Lawrence tends to act everyone else off the screen — Lawrence and Hutcherson aren’t evenly matched in their acting abilities.

I also have criticisms about the end (*major character death spoiler alert ahead*) — when Prim dies tragically, in an attack with bombs designed by Gale, the moment is over quickly and for me, it did not provoke an emotional response. In the book, her death is horrifying, as the readers realize what is about to happen and it makes you feel a real sense of loss — one of the sweetest characters is gone.

 

The level of abstraction in the movie meant that deaths of key characters, such as Finnick and Prim, didn’t seem very emotive. This is clearly a flaw in the film-making. After the first Hunger Games movie, Francis Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer) took over from Gary Ross as director. But I wonder whether this may have been a mistake, as the first movie is by far the best of the four.

In The Hunger Games movie, the scene when Rue died – the young District 11 tribute with whom Katniss strikes up a friendship and alliance – is genuinely moving. In Mockingjay – Part 2, on the other hand, the last tragic death doesn’t actually provoke much emotion from the audience.

It’s not as though you want the cameras to linger on the scene of bloody carnage after the bombs explode. This is, after all, a young adult franchise, even though the film makers got away with some pretty intense scenes during the Capitol chase. But that scene just seemed to be lacking in emotion, in my opinion.

Throughout the film, Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss as a stunned, PTSD-suffering girl. The outburst of sobs after she returns home to District 12 and finds Prim’s cat is a welcome catharsis to the non-stop action of the majority of the movie — less action and CGI, and more emotion.

Katniss_Everdeen

Katniss Everdeen in Mockingjay – Part 1. Licensed under Fair Use via Wikipedia 

Talking of emotion, the final scene could have been sappy, with a ‘happy ever after’ ending, but I thought it actually turned out well in the movie. It concludes the series with a bittersweet taste, showing Katniss as a wife and mother who will always be haunted by the horrors of her past, but who finds a way of coping.

“I’ll tell them how I survive it. I’ll tell them that on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in things because I’m afraid it could be taken away. That’s when I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I’ve seen someone do. It’s like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious after more than twenty years.

But there are much worse games to play.”

Are you a fan of The Hunger Games? What do you think about Mockingjay – Part 2? 

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8 thoughts on “Movie review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

  1. I think you’re right that it was a mistake to divide the film into two. It killed some of the dramatic depth. A three hour or even longer film with an intermission would have been just fine by me, but modern Hollywood doesn’t like such epic treatments. Plus, ticket receipts are higher for two two-hour films versus one three-hour film. It’s largely a financial calculation over an aesthetic one.

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  2. Pingback: Looking back at 2015 | Cultural Life

  3. Great review! I agree, the deaths of those supporting characters in the film did not have the impact and shock value as they did in the books. I feel like a lot of the other characters in the film too did not receive the attention they deserved in the film. I liked your point about the ending being well done too. It was probably my favorite part of the film.

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    • Thank you! 🙂

      I think books are almost always better than movie adaptations, but the first two Hunger Games movies were excellent. It’s a shame that Mockingjay: Parts 1 and 2 didn’t live up to the high standards of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.

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