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Farewell My Katniss

 137 Minutes
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Francis Lawrence 
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Mockingjay Part 2

The first hour of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is like the pre-game show for the Super Bowl. It seems to go on forever and consists of nothing but people talking about what’s going to happen next and what the opposing teams, or armies, are planning to do. But just when audiences begin to wonder if anything exciting is going to happen, the second hour starts like an episode of The Walking Dead, with a zombie attack. Actually, it’s an attack of subterranean mutants but a crowd waiting for Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) to spring into action isn’t likely to be very picky. By the time the movie ends, in another hour, the Super Bowl analogy is again appropriate, because, like the ending of most of the previous Super Bowls, audiences will probably feel the buildup and hype just wasn’t worth the effort.


As I mentioned in my review of Mockingjay – Part 1 last year, the blame for this disappointment largely goes to the producers who decided to stretch out the third volume of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy from one movie to two. Based on what I saw in both movies, there’s enough material there for one pretty good two hour film. Instead, we get four and a half hours of often pointless blather, much of which, unfortunately, comes at the beginning of Part 2.


Mockingjay Part 2 begins shortly after the ending of Part 1, and viewers who are not already familiar with the earlier movies or the books may find it hard to follow since the current film makes no effort to help audiences catch up. Katniss is recovering from being attacked by brainwashed fellow Hunger Gamer Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) at the end of Part 1. In the meantime, all of the outlying districts have united under the leadership of President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) to take the battle to President Snow’s forces in the Capitol itself. Katniss’ contribution to all this is to continue to make staged propaganda films as a symbol of the rebellion. Coin considers Katniss too valuable a motivational tool to risk in actual combat.


Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with Katniss, and she finally gets her chance to see action, when she is named part of an elite squad that takes part in the attack on the capital. Sort of. Actually, she and the rest of her squad, which conveniently includes some familiar faces such as a recovering but unsure of himself Peeta, Katniss’ hometown boyfriend Gale (Liam Hemsworth), and fellow Hunger Game participant Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), are supposed to come in after the actual combat is over and film more propaganda videos in which Katniss appears to be leading the battle.


The mock combat turns into real combat when they encounter some of the hundreds of booby trap robots Snow installed, which fire machine guns or engulf victims in balls of flame or torrents of tar. Soon, Katniss and her now dwindling number of fellow squad members are holed up in one of the many abandoned buildings in the Capitol. Katniss soon figures out the one place the booby trap robots can’t get them is in the sewers than lead to the Presidential palace, so the squad’s progress becomes a watery slog.


Up until this point, the movie has been a slog for viewers as well. It’s all talk and almost no action as Snow, Coin, and the rebel leaders outline their strategy, and the rebels deliver inspirational speeches seemingly ad infinitum. The only substantive development is Peeta’s gradual mental improvement to the stage where he recognizes his real loyalties but still fears he might have a relapse while on the mission with Katniss.


One reason for the lack of action here is the source material itself. Suzanne Collins’ novels are written in the first person, so battles that Katniss doesn’t participate in are merely described in passing as she learns of them. But move scripts are under no such restriction. In a movie with an obviously large budget like Mockingjay, there was no reason not to give viewers some of what they wanted, namely to see rebel forces kicking the crap out of the government troops. Instead, the movie looks eerily like a mini-budget direct-to-video independent production.


Fortunately, the action, and the movie, pick up in the sewers. Katniss and her fellow squad members are suddenly attacked by some type of subhuman mutants with very large teeth. What I thought (and probably much of the audience thought as well) was that I was witnessing a zombie attack. Whatever they were made little sense but undeniably produced a great sequence. The action might be a bit confusing, but it is frenzied and raises the film’s energy level for the finale.


The audience does get to see a final low-key but satisfying meeting between Katniss and a captured President Snow leading up to a surprise resolution. For those who haven’t read the books, I won’t spoil it, but it’s not hard to guess what’s going to happen. Audiences also get a final look at the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, whose role here was reduced due to some rewrites necessitated by his untimely death. Other familiar Hunger Games faces are thankfully still with us, but their roles were also reduced, in some cases to cameos, and they appear to have been shoehorned into the script merely to show up in the credits. Stanley Tucci and Jeffrey Wright have about one scene each, while Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson fare little better.


In all honesty, however, Mockinjay Part 2 is a showcase for its star, which also partly explains the first hour’s weakness. This is the role that made Jennifer Lawrence a star, and, to her credit, she still invests herself fully in it. Even though she’s by now too old to play Katniss (who was 16 in the first book), she’s still convincing in the role and makes the emotional scenes work. Almost is good is Donald Sutherland, who has made the villainous President Snow perhaps his best film role ever. His villainy tempered by his wry, self-aware sense of humor is a good contrast to the more serious notes in the film.


Fittingly, the Hunger Games saga ends as another beloved franchise, Star Wars, prepares to relaunch. Of course, it’s doubtful we’ll ever see Katniss’ kids involved in a movie, so Mockingjay Part 2 is the swan song. On the heels of two very good movies, we got one potentially good movie that was padded into two mediocre ones. The Hunger Games saga deserved a better finale than it got, but it couldn’t have asked for a better leading lady.     

Read other reviews of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2:


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (2015) on IMDb