“THE HUNGER GAMES: Mockingjay Part 2” is the less than mellifluous name of the final (thank God) in the Hunger Games’ endless flow of movies. The name is as long as the movie felt. On and on and on. Not unlike the endlessly drawn out yawn of “The Hobbit”: a novella spun into faux cine-operatic, money-making, multi-series multiplicity.
By now you know the story of THG: The games are the annual live entertainment sport in which a team of (mainly) young persons chosen from their districts, fight for their lives… to the delight and enjoyment of all. It’s the way the government of the Districts of Panem keeps the population compliant and entertained even as they suffer and starve. (They call it hunger Games, we of course call it the FA Cup). Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her partner, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) had been past winners and star crossed lovers. But her sense of justice and her fearlessness has made her more than a past winner: she’s become the heart, soul and face of a bubbling rebellion.
The first part of this drawn out finale was a really fine movie. If you remember, it dwelt on the idea of identity and image: Katniss’ integrity and refusal to be shaped by the image masters of the state made her, ironically, the ideal image of the rebellion. Hers was an image founded on her uncompromising sense of identity. “Mockingjay Part One” ended with the love of her life (the vapid Peeta) captured by the Capitol and being turned into her opposite image number…epitomized by his own loss of identity.
Part One managed to nicely balance a quieter more introspective side (Katniss is prone to nightmares…she’s in love with a man who is morphing into her enemy) with a few startling bursts of explosive action…the rhythm of the movie worked.
Part two however has lost this finely calibrated balance. The story tells of Katniss’ never quite credible need for revenge…to kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland), the overlord of Panem. She’s leading a small group of rebels into the heart of the Capitol whilst at the same time triying to recover the soul of her sold out lover (Peeta). Into this mix there’s deceit and the inevitable pollution of power.
The elements are all there, all glossed up with Philip Messina’s (“Ocean’s Eleven”) superb production design.
Sadly the combination of a characterless Julianne Moore as President Coin, the bureaucratic leader of the rebellion (who could win an award for the most expressionless acting of the year), a generally faceless enemy (Snow the bad guy is reduced to a few avuncular statements and has been replaced by the anonymous threat of what are in effect high tech land mines), the menace-free Peeta (no more really than a puppet on a string) and a stunningly corny script (by the same combination of writers, Peter Craig, Danny Strong and Suzanne Collins) place all the emphasis for drama, tension, empathy and threat on the sole shoulders of Jennifer Lawrence’s underwritten Katniss.
All the, by now extraneous, characters from the past, who’d at least added sparkle and zest – Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Plutarch, Stanley Tucci’s camp Caesar Flickerman and Natalie Dormer’s Cressida – have been reduced to cameos. THG Mockingjay Part 2 has shifted from the best of YA soft rock (Katy Perry) to an arhythmic one-note samba.
All the multiple strands of the movie – the hissing nastiness of the overlords, the duplicity of Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and President Coin, the simpering romance with Peeta, Katniss’ own self doubts etc – are finally woven together in a meandering, formless way, with a few (admittedly tremendously exciting) action scenes substituting for the intellectual and visceral catharsis you’d expect after eight hours of viewing.
And the last few scenes of the grand finale itself, like a monster who just won’t die, just carries on sin fin long after the curtains should have fallen, closing the franchise with a stuttering whimper not a bang.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. Dir: Francis Lawrence. With Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymore Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Jeffrey Wright. Cinematographer: Jo Willems. Production Designer: Philip Messina