Mockingjay Part 2, the final instalment of the Hunger Games series, marks the end of an era. So I was obviously excited when I went to watch the film. I went in expecting a lot. For the uninitiated, the Hunger Games is a widely popular movie series, based on the even more popular book series, written by American author Suzanne Collins. The story is based in a fictional land of Panem, where the Capitol rules over 12 other districts, which are reeling in poverty. Many years ago, the districts had rebelled against the Capitol, but the rebellion was crushed, after which, a televised game, The Hunger Games used to be organized every year where two people from each district participated in a deadly game of survival.
What made this movie even more special for me is the fact that it is Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last movie. He passed away last year due to drug abuse while still filming Mockingjay 2.
Part 2 begins where the first part left off, with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) returning to the underground District 13, where the lead protagonist, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers that President Snow (Donald Sutherland) has tortured and brainwashed him against her. Katniss finds it difficult to bear Peeta’s condition and vows revenge against Snow. She sets out on a mission to kill him. However, President Coin (Julianne Moore) has other plans and wants to keep Katniss away from the main arena of the fight. Both Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) are in love with Katniss, and the side-plot of who Katniss loves keeps running throughout this film too, and isn’t revealed till the very end.
And the first half further increased my expectations, it brought forth Katniss Everdeen as the leader all of were looking for. Her personality and character mobilised masses, not only in the film but also outside. What works for the movie is the superb acting of Jennifer Lawrence, Juliane Moore, Donald Sutherland as President Snow, and the strong supporting cast. But my happiness was short-lived, because the film, on the whole, is a huge disappointment.
Unlike the other films in the series, this movie didn’t have many fight sequences, and the ones which were there were disappointing. Even though the districts were supposed to be in ‘war’ with the Capitol throughout, one hardly got to any of it. Katniss Everdeen is famed for her archery skills, but the director of the film seems to have forgotten about that throughout most of the film. Apart from one sequence in a tunnel, the film kept losing its pace throughout.
What always defined the Hunger Games series for me was that element of suspense, of fear that Katniss experienced at every step. In the Hunger Games, you never know what to expect next. Somewhere down the line, the director and scriptwriter seemed to be at odds with each other in bringing out Katniss’s connect with the audience, something that was present in the previous films. Midway into the movie, I stopped feeling her emotions, her love for Peeta, her fear for the safety of others. Even Jennifer Lawrence’s performance couldn’t bridge this gap for me.
Mockingjay 2 also moved away from its original plot focus, which is a classic critique of the oppressive state is mired in capitalist success, oppression and starvation. The characters instead kept debating the moral debate of what’s right in love and war, and it became a tedious debate towards the end. We all know what Katniss is fighting for, putting in different perspectives to it just confused the viewer more.
Even the character build ups needed explanation, which weren’t provided in the final movie. Gale’s character makes a sudden leap towards the end, completely in contrast to his actual character from the previous films. President Coin’s (Julianne Moore), the incumbent leader of District 13 has grey shades in this movie, which clearly weren’t visible. It seemed as if Julianne Moore, through her brilliant acting was shielding the character’s grey shades, or was the script forcing her to do so?
Hoffman died before filming the last scene of the film, and an extra scene was inserted to explain his absence. I felt that the explanation for his absence at the end was the lamest method to be ever used on celluloid. I think the maker’s forgot to look up the last scene of Dark Knight, where the makers brilliantly showed Heath Ledger’s death. That’s how one explains the absence of a central character in a movie, something in which the Mockingjay makers clearly failed for me.
Overall, just two sequences of the film sent chills down my spine, because one didn’t know what to expect at that turn, and which character would lose his/her life. The brilliance of the previous movies sparked in these two sequences, then fizzled out.
What annoyed me the most was that the climax of the film was hurried, and before I could blink, the ‘war’ was over and Katniss was being led to Snow’s mansion. Where was the resolve? As a fan of the series, I expected to see the culmination of what the heroine set out to do – but the climax was denied to Katniss. I always believed that the Hunger Games is a refreshing change for women in cinema, and taking the biggest climax scene away from Katniss was a huge disappointment for me.
If someone is looking to revisit their favourite characters from the Hunger Games on celluloid for the last time, without any expectations, then they should definitely go for the movie. But those who are expecting the movie to meet a standard, should probably avoid watching it. It wouldn’t be the worst thing if someone decides to remake this movie into something better in the future.