Written By Tommy Tracy
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: I haven’t read these books. I’m not a super fan, I don’t know the source material and I don’t identify very well with Suzanne Collins’ characters. However, I can appreciate the impact The Hunger Games has had on our culture recently, becoming a phenomenon we haven’t seen since Harry Potter. I have seen the first three movies, enjoyed them and thus, was looking forward to seeing Mockingjay Part Two.
We pick up right where Part One left off with Katniss still reeling from her attack from Peeta. It’s very obvious he was brainwashed by the Capitol and President Snow, wrecking his brain and making him question everything he believed. And Katniss is as gloom as ever, wanting to fight on the front lines and protect her family but her mind is also been brainwashed by what the rebels are doing, particularly President Coin. Coin believes Katniss should just be a symbol for the fighters but not an actual soldier herself while Katniss believes she can help out more by fighting. This causes conflict and when Katniss boards a supply ship and disobeys orders, Coin is noticeably upset. She sets up a team to take the Capitol but only for propaganda but this team ends up taking part in more “games” set up to destroy Katniss.
Yes, it’s that convoluted. But it’s a large step up from the pointless and boring Part One. The rebellion really starts to take action, killing almost anyone in their way, whether they are innocent or not. The real question is: are they really better than the Capitol? This is something Katniss and her team (Gale, Finnick and the propaganda team from the previous film) question. They just want change but not all out genocide. However, Katniss and her inability to ever listen to what anyone else says causes destruction within her group. Because of her actions, this group is thrust into an impromptu Hunger Games, dodging insane death traps. I won’t spoil anything here but a lot of people die in this film, violently and, at times, unjustly. And it’s all Katniss’ fault. She’s a bad person, an idiot if you will who won’t listen to reason.
These traps are great. They’re not quite up to the insanity that Catching Fire gave us but they’re pretty great. There’s one in the sewers that is so scary, so claustrophobic that I was clenching my fists in fear. It reminded me of Alien, the highest compliment I can give. Another one involving a large wave of black tar and oil is also heart pounding. I actually believed most of them wouldn’t make it.
I’m just going to say it; I hate Jennifer Lawrence in this movie. She’s an incredible actress but I feel she just didn’t care here, bringing a sourpuss attitude that wasn’t needed. Is this how Katniss usually acts; dour and so full of angst that no logic applies to her? I felt the same way about her in X-Men: Days of Future Past, just phoning in a big budget performance. She excels in independent films but in films such as this, it comes off as if she doesn’t give a damn.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, the rest of this cast is fantastic. Julianne Moore is so devious as President Coin; she can’t be trusted even though she believes in the greater good. Liam Hemsworth is fantastic as Gale, brining a gruff and solider-like attitude. Sam Claflin returns as Finnick Odair and I absolutely love this character. He’s smarmy but loyal, a hopeless romantic that can be a Han Solo-type to this generation. But the real standout, as usual, is Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta. He’s so damaged, so beaten down and it’s heartbreaking. I actually feel his pain when he talks. He doesn’t know who he is and all he wants to do is figure it out. I know it’s silly to think a movie like this could get any Oscar buzz but I do hope they give Hutcherson a look. He’s great. Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch and Elizabeth Banks’ Effie have their roles seriously diminished but they rock it when they’re on. And Stanley Tucci’s Caesar is almost pointless to have, utilizing one scene but not very effectively.
I’m not forgetting President Snow. My God, what a villain. He’s so evil, so diabolical and you can’t help but hate him. But Donald Sutherland plays him so well, so sympathetically that when he and Katniss come face to face, you understand him. He’s not as wrong as some may view him and his last scene is brilliant, mixing his insanity and sympathetic side to perfection.
I liked this film, a lot. It wasn’t quite up to snuff with Catching Fire or the first Hunger Games but still played really well. And while I had some problems (Katniss, the convoluted plot, Coin’s actions), it was still enjoyable. The best part about seeing this was the fans. While exiting the theater I listened to the fans, mostly teenage girls, discovering that their favorite series was coming to an end. They chatted about the characters, how close it was to the book and how much they are going to miss it. I understand it because I remember feeling this way about the Harry Potter phenomenon. Discussing, with total strangers mind you, all the things that they did right, wrong and how much I would miss seeing characters and stories I love on the big screen. It’s truly a humbling moment and it’s great to see that a series of books can impact a culture so much. Well done.
Final Grade: 8/10