With the king (or queen) of the teen, dystopian film genre finally coming to an end, The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part 2 attempts to go out with a bang. It’s a film that doesn’t bother catching the viewers up to speed on any of the previous events, with the film starting off just after the ending of the first part. While this film may satisfy those who needed more action, it sadly is one of the worst in the series. Removing the political nuances that the first part had; The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part 2 seeks to tell a far simpler story. This is a war movie plain and simple, but because of this choice there are some noticeable ruffles in Mocking Jay’s feathers.
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The major problem lies with the now popular method of making the last book in a series two parts. Yes, they are typically able to cover the book in a more faithful manner, but this method gave The Hunger Games’ second part serious pacing issues. The first part was spent setting up all of the political dynamics, the motives of each character, where all the major players stand, and what is now driving Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) to finish her war with President Snow. (Donald Sutherland) This made the second movie nothing more than a third act that doesn’t spend time further developing any of the character’s relationships. Combining the two movies does show a far more enjoyable story, but as a standalone film Mocking Jay Part 2 lacks a sense of structure. Due to this, many side characters we have developed relationships with getting ignored completely in an effort to tell Katniss’ attempted revenge against Snow. This is a disappointing choice as once more we fail to see how this war really affects those outside of our heroine’s main posse. Mocking Jay Part 2 is quite content with just showing us the battles and destruction right up to the ending.
Speaking of the ending, The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part 2 may have one of the most drawn of finales I’ve seen since the last Lord of the Rings movie. After all of the major actions are said and done, you’d think it will quickly wrap up the last bit of narrative threads left lingering about. No, Mocking Jay Part 2 takes it damn time with each of these scenes, bringing the film to a grinding halt. Director Francis Lawrence drags out the conclusion to the point where it fakes a relatively competent ending with a “surprise!” style reveal. I assume this is to throw off the readers, but the big “surprise” is even more cringe-worthy than some of the scenes leading up to this. There’s also a not so shocking twist that we should feel an emotional resonance with, but it ends up coming off as simply awkward. The big reveal may have been more impactful if this movie wasn’t trying so hard to make this person seem completely heartless. We also a major death at the end of the movie, but this once again feels incredibly rushed. The death is filmed in a very quick manner so those who look away for a moment may miss what actually happened. You’d expect in any following scenes for this to be brought up or have the emotional weight on one of our character’s collapse in on them, but no. This is supposed to be the turning point of the film, what it has been building up to since it started and it’s not given a ton of acknowledgment as a whole.
Our favorite camera style returns in full force as the shaky camera scenes appear in every action scene. Now, I am not against a shaky cam style if it’s done in a competent and understandable way. The beginning of the first Hunger Games that Katniss participates in is riddled with it, but that gives off a sense of panic and chaos. By now our heroine is not only a complete badass, but has an entire group of highly trained soldiers backing her up. The shaky camera is annoying and doesn’t justify the context of the action scenes. Which on a side note are really interesting conceptually. The way they are filmed in a way that can leave you confused as to what is even happening, as certain characters die off in a flash without even a moment to focus in on them. This ruins the largely enjoyable set pieces Mocking Jay Part 2 sets up as some of these new traps are incredibly sinister.
Now don’t get me wrong this film isn’t all bad, in fact, there are some really notable sections that will probably define the series. One of these involves the gang being chased through a darkened sewer system by a swarm of mutated Mutts. It’s tense and thrilling in all the right ways with a powerful ending that may surprise some of us who haven’t read the book. This isn’t a children’s movie by any stretch of the imagination, which helps the film at least hint at the adult consequences of war. Both Lawrence and Sutherland show great chemistry as adversaries, but it’s Josh Hutcherson’s performance as Peeta that stands out. After all of the torment he had to endure, watching him battle his own manipulated psyche is truly fascinating. Coupe this with his fantastic performance and it makes Peeta Mocking Jay Part 2’s best character…For those of you in camp, Gale prepares to be severely underwhelmed. His character gets lackluster development and what scenes he does play a major part in, it’s sole to reinforce the most awkward love triangle ever.
In the end, this is by far the weakest of The Hunger Games series, with it failing to impress on fronts it usually does. It’s a movie weighed down due to it needing to tie up all the loose ends, but not actually accomplishing this. It’s very much Katniss’ story with all of the relationships we have established pushed aside for a single story arc. With both a lack and poor execution of key emotional scenes, Mocking Jay Part 2 is an unsatisfying conclusion to a largely positive series. The “Girl on Fire’s” flames have finally dimmed.
- Cinematography/Design: While Mocking Jay Part 2 boasts some impressive sets and costumes, the camera work for the majority of the action scenes is incredibly poor. The shaky camera makes it difficult to figure out exactly what is happening, which is a shame given the spectacular design of the set pieces themselves. Editing and sound design are decent, but nothing to get to excited over. Overall the bleakness of war that Mocking Jay Part 2 tries to convey works, but removes any of the visual wonders that made the series so unique.
- Story: By far the weakest of the entire Hunger Games series. Acting as a wrap up for all of the narrative threads from Part 1, the film feels more like a third act than a complete movie. When watched back to back you can see a far more competent structure, but standing alone Mocking Jay Part 2 is weighed down by the need to quickly wrap up the main story. Emotional scenes do not hit their mark and the big surprises at the end are far more awkward and rushed. The biggest sin is how the film glosses over a major death, as if it’s under the assumption everyone has read the book and knows what is suppose to happen.
- Characters/Acting: Jennifer Lawrence gives another fantastic performance as Katniss, while Donald Sutherland’s Snow is highly enjoyable to watch on screen. Both stars have great chemistry on screen, but it’s Josh Hutcherson who steals the show has Peeta. Giving his character much need nuance throughout the story, Hutcherson shows off his acting chops throughout the entire film. Sadly though the majority of side characters we have learned to love are either shoved off to the side or given uninteresting scenes. Main characters such as Gale show promise, but the film’s love triangle story take up too much of the actor’s screen time.
- Katniss/Snow Chemistry
- Peeta's Transformation
- Action Set Pieces
- Drawn out ending
- Sidelined Most Side Characters
- Shaky Camera Too Prevalent
- Missed Emotional Scenes
A recent graduate of Arcadia University, Collin MacGregor is a freelance video editor and writer. He covers video games, television, and film for The Nerd Stash. Collin currently is the head film/television reviewer for the site.