I had to re-read my review – from exactly one year ago – of Mockingjay – Part One to reaffirm what I already knew: Mockingjay, Part Two is definitely my least favorite of the four-movie franchise. Not surprising, considering “Mockingjay” was my least favorite of the best-selling “Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins and never should have been split into two movies. It just doubled the disappointment. That’s not to say fans of the book and the movies shouldn’t see Mockingjay, Part Two. OF COURSE they should. You need the closure… that final cinematic salute to symbolic rebel leader Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), her rival love interests Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and the whole nation of Panem. One last chance to declare, “May the odds be ever in your favor!”
Mockingjay – Part Two picks up where Part One left off. Panem is in the midst of a full-scale war. Katniss (the Tribute to end all Tributes) teams up with an elite unit from District 13 to confront the evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and liberate the citizens of Panem once and for all.
It’s still amazing to think that a story with a premise that involves kids killing kids for sport and entertainment could achieve the pinnacle of blockbuster success. Surely, anyone who hasn’t read the books or seen the movies will never quite ‘get it’. (It’s sort of like the Twilight phenomenon in that regard). But there was something captivating about the narrative and the characters that translated quite well to the big screen, thanks in large part to the casting of the uber-talented Lawrence as the arrow-slinging heroine. I loved the first book (“The Hunger Games”), enjoyed the second (“Catching Fire”), and as I mentioned, didn’t particularly like the third. The third book – and final two movies – took on a much darker tone than its predecessors. The final film also suffers from a lack of emotional connection that permeated the previous installments, and, despite my appreciation for the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, it was rather distracting to see him once again in the role of head game-maker Plutarch Heavensbee. (i.e. What’s real and what’s CGI or acting-double fakery?). Also, sadly relegated to very minor status in the final film: Katniss’s former chaperone Effie (Elizabeth Banks), television commentator Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), and Katniss’s sister Prim (Willow Shields) whose final scenes should have been way more powerful.
The end of the movie may be faithful to the book, but on screen, it felt like an add-on that diminished the impact of what might have been a way more natural conclusion.
Regardless of my less than favorable critique of MJ2, I do think that “The Hunger Games” trilogy served up a long and hearty meal at the box office over the past several years and helped propel a very deserving Lawrence into the mainstream spotlight. And for that, all I can say is…
p.s. If you haven’t seen the previous Hunger Games movies, don’t bother with this one. It will make zero sense to the un-initiated.