The depressing and disturbingly violent 12A-rated Hunger Games finale draws to a close with a bleak procession of whining characters, uneven pacing and far too much politics. And an episode of bombing civilians in the Capitol, which is unfortunate given the recent events in Paris.
Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdene is not so much the Girl on Fire as the numbed PTSD survivor, on a mission to assassinate President Snow. MJ-2 is part Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, and Heart of Darkness; but mainly Fellowship of the Ring, with a record-equalling Return of the King number of epilogues.
The action shifts to the assault on the Capitol, with Katniss and Peeta trailing the front lines of the rebellion making propaganda videos. She’s an automaton, he’s a brain-washed psychopath trying to kill her. Worse still, the Capitol has been booby-trapped by Snow’s game-makers, the streets a lethal killing ground for the advancing rebels – and we’re back in the Hunger Games arena.
Structurally, there’s enough in Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay novel to make two movies; somehow, though, it misses the mark; the talky sections drag, and with one notable exception, so do the action sequences.
There is one thrilling and very scary tunnel sequence where our Fellowship is hunted by mutant Morlocks, unfortunately done before by Del Toro in Blade II and any number of sci-fi turns from Resident Evil to Walking Dead to Aliens. But we shift from that to the aforementioned civilian bombing above ground with a huge unwelcome reminder of Mid-East conflicts. Not that I object to ragged and raw dystopian sci-fi, I just don’t get the tone of this alleged Y-A fiction which wants to be Saving Private Ryan.
Certainly the rebellion has become a dirty civil war; Gael (Liam Hemsworth) has pretty much gone to the Dark Side in his disregard of the casualties; rebel leader Alma Coyn is plainly a dictator-in-waiting to replace President Snow; but we’re sadly deprived of the moral counter-weight of game-maker Plutarch Heavensbee, robbed by the untimely death of Philip Seymour Hoffman before he completed filming.
Which leaves Katniss on her one-woman suicide mission in a supposedly high-tech world, with no real plan, continual mis-judgements and the narrowest escapes owed to coincidence and blind luck; miraculously not shot, stabbed or repeatedly blown up while the body count around her is like a Korean war movie. And yet the defence of the Capitol is as incompetent as it is perverse; yes, the whole premise of the Hunger Games is a mash-up of Battle Royale, Spartacus and Rollerball, so why am I so outraged at the comic-book excesses of this franchise-ending behemoth?
Jennifer Lawrence is on top form as the blank-faced Katniss, putting herself in harms way; Josh Hutcherson shrunken as the small-town boy deprived of his sanity. Donald Sutherland as Snow is effortless as the wily dictator, a Caligula for our times; Julianne Moore as Coyn enjoys chilling Lady Macbeth splendour. Other favourites in the supporting cast (Harrelson, Banks) get very little to do this outing except say goodbye in the epilogues.
Relentlessly bleak and unleavened by any kind of humour, the only time the mood is broken is for moments of unintentional comedy; some “what – really??” moments in some of the set-pieces, not to mention every time our Jen says ‘Peeta’, she sounds just like Lois in Family Guy.
The franchise has set a precedent for assorted Insurgents and Maze Runners, and I suppose if that’s how you like your dystopian sci-fi, who am I to call you out? So, it’s not Guardians of the Galaxy (imperfect as that is), it’s not Edge of Tomorrow either; and at least it tries to say something deeper about life, death, loss and politics than any of these.
While it dispenses with the love triangle, Mockingjay winds up as a war movie, yet still somehow goes out with a whimper not a bang. Perhaps framing it as the homecoming veterans’ story is a more worthy effort than I’m giving credit?
Mockingjay Part 2 fills it’s own niche and satisfactorily wraps up the whole saga with it’s own take on the source novel. It does what it says on the label, in the way that these mammoth franchise properties are wont to do. Whether it’s an entirely appropriate certification is an open question for the BBFC; this is undoubtedly a very adult movie masquerading under a children’s rating, and that sits uncomfortably with me. RC
Mockingjay Part II (2015)
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Suzanne Collins, Danny Strong, Peter Craig
Genre: Drama, Action/Adventure, Science fiction
Running time: 148 minutes
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Dormer,