Movie Review: Mockingjay Part 2

In the year and two months I have been a critic, it did not take long before I started beating a lot of dead horses. This year alone I have made the same consecutive points on four different spy movies, two Christian propaganda pieces, three finding your self dramas, and three suspense thrillers. It is to be expected, as all movies are interchangeable with the same stories, premises, and character archetypes. It is the nature of the beast, but I try my best not to repeat myself in each review. And of the movies I have critiqued, there has not been a more bludgeoned steed than that of the Young Adult (YA) genre.

I only reviewed three (four if you count Divergent), but what I have to say I have already gone into excruciating detail. The dystopia settings are metaphors for school, puberty, or childhood; the villains are allegories for adults; and there is always some form of a caste system that reflects a clique or gang. Genre movies tend to stay within their own confines, but YA is adherent to point every movie is near indistinguishable. At that point it becomes a question of quality and of the YA I have seen Hunger Games is the best.

Complaints about the logic of the world aside, the setup is better with its commentary on the nature of television. The examination of classism I disagree with completely, but it makes a reasonable argument unlike many anti-capitalist twerps. Hunger Games’ brand of satire has a lot in common with Robocop with a reality enhanced by extravagant elements. Instead of an apocalyptic Detroit, we have a Huxleyan oligarchy. Cooperate funded crime is replaced by an annual competition where kids kill each other to keep the Districts in line. And rather than a cyborg cop, we have a girl who has PTSD and uses a bow. It is a weird series, but it does YA better than most. Does Mockingjay Part 2 finish on a high note or is it another in a long line of failed conclusions?

As District 13 makes its final march on the Capitol, Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is sent in on a mission to assassinate President Snow, played by Donald Sutherland. Her will and emotions are put to the test as she loses friends and learns what may come of her actions.

The element of PTSD played a big part throughout the series, but Part 2 makes it the focus, in addition to a commentary on the nature of war. Katniss is visibly withered. She wants to rest and keep out of the remaining conflict, but is bound by her convictions to keep going. Her dedication, however, exacerbates the trauma from the Games. By the end it gets worse with a major death and a very graphic massacre I did not see coming. It plays a key part in Katniss’s development, punctuated by a somber yet bittersweet period of recovery.

Lawrence once again puts her talent on display as she proudly drags the movie by its adolescent balls. She easily steals the show with great attention in the subtly of her voice and expressions. For most of the runtime she is reserved and inconspicuous, hiding her feelings before the war ends and she lets it all out. For an actress who held her own in American Hustle and won an Oscar, I am surprised she brought such talent to a YA series, easily over shadowing her costars in her fantastic performance.

And now onto why Part 2 does not work.

The film was 137 minutes and it felt like 180 thanks to its stalwart adherence to the source material. Based on the pacing and structure I can tell they pulled it right from the book and did not bother adapting it for the screen. Though I have never read a single book in the series, I have studied screenwriting, and I know a poorly edited script when I see it. There are numerous redundancies and wasted screen time with enough content that could have been slashed out and assimilated into Part 1 if the studio cared about quality over quantity.

The biggest redundancy happens at the beginning when Katniss demands she be sent to the Capitol to kill Snow. President Coin, played by Julianne Moore, refuses, but she goes anyway. When she arrives, however, the camera crew from Part 1 is already there and it is mentioned they were sent with the intention of escorting her. If that is the case, why did Coin order her to stay? Is it like a Wicker Man thing where she has to go on her own to make it look genuine? There was no reason for it if Coin intended to send her anyway, using up roughly ten pages’ worth of script.

The main reason for the poor pacing and the intense feeling of a slog is the way it was written. The film plays out like a book with long tangents of people walking in silence, pointless descriptions of things, and digressions that did not need to be there because we already know what is happening. The instances where characters are walking, nothing happens except for some nice displays of scenery. The petty love triangle between Peeta and Gale, played by Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, could have been resolved, Katniss’s suspicion of Coin more explored, and her rehabilitation of Peeta accelerated had the characters been talking on the move! Instead they walk for long stretches of time, stop, and talk at length about the plot like the Stars Wars prequels. Information is presented in a way that the movie literally pauses to tell the audience what is going on. And the narrative weight of what happens is muted because all of it was used in Part 1 like Smaug in Battle of the Five Armies.

I could talk about the acting, but it does not matter because Lawrence owns this movie. Sutherland seemed to have fun as the villain and I wish there was more of him. Hutcherson did pretty well shifting between weak-kneed Peeta to brainwashed maniac. Hemsworth… I do not want to be insulting, but the guy should take lessons from his brother. Moore was boring, Woody Harrelson under utilized, and Philip Seymour Hoffman did what he could. I liked Jena Malone, but as with the rest of the supporting cast, she was barely there. It is depressing because those characters are more interesting.

As an ending, Mockingjay Part 2 ties up the series pretty well. Katniss is put through her paces and reaches the peak of her development in a fantastic way thanks to Lawrence’s performance. If the film were easier to sit through I would recommend it on that fact alone. It is an arduous experience that could have been avoided with better writing. If that is something you can stomach, give it a shot, but this is a fans only situation.

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