The 400-Word-Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
By Sean Collier
November 26, 2015
The concluding films in the “Twilight” series, Breaking Dawn parts 1 and 2, drew global box office receipts topping $712 million and $829 million respectively. The last couple of “Harry Potter” flicks, Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2, claimed $960 million and over $1.3 billion respectively.
So you can’t fault Lionsgate for splitting the last of Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” books, Mockingjay, into two parts; if it had been allowed to stand as one film, the studio would’ve left about a billion dollars on the table. Hard to hold it against them.
Even if it meant sacrificing one good film to make two unremarkable movies.
Mockingjay undivided certainly could’ve been a fine film; the second chapter in the series, Catching Fire, was an effective and occasionally thrilling adaptation of the book, bolstered by an excellent cast (Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth notwithstanding) led by then-rising (now risen) star Jennifer Lawrence. With Catching Fire’s director, Francis Lawrence, on board, why wouldn’t a standalone Mockingjay have succeeded? After all, the series’ great strength is a simple, effective structure that the ultimate book retained.
Alas, though, there’s the matter of that billion dollars. So we’re left with a final chapter that will satisfy only “Hunger Games” diehards, artificially lengthened to create the illusion that two installments were necessary.
In Part 1, Katniss (Lawrence) was compelled to become the public face of a rebellion. An uprising had coalesced around the disavowed District 13, where Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) was preparing troops to take on the capital; she needed the popular Katniss to ignite the rebellion, however.
And ... that was basically it for Part 1, leaving most of the plot and nearly all of the action for this year’s episode. So yes, Mockingjay Part 2 does finally follow Katniss and crew, including the brain-damaged Peeta (Hutcherson), as they fight for Panem’s freedom.
Lawrence remains excellent, even if she is forced to replay all the notes she’s already hit. The film’s supporting cast — notably Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks and Moore — do fine work. (The absence of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died during filming, is certainly felt.)
But, in the cruelest twist, the action in this Mockingjay doesn’t quite measure up. A few sequences hit home, but the assault on the capital doesn’t have the flair of Catching Fire. There are great moments — which will only momentarily drown out the series’ dying whimper.
My Rating: 6/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark