Arts

Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Strong women abound in the final big-screen outing for Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series. But is it any good? We sent Debra-Jane Appelby to find out.

Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. All photos: Murray Close/Lionsgate.

Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. All photos: Murray Close/Lionsgate.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is the fourth film in The Hunger Games trilogy, and yet another in the growing list of blockbuster finales split into two parts (see also: Harry Potter, Twilight). Certainly in our household, there was great anticipation to see how the journey of plucky, stoic heroine Katniss Everdeen finally plays out.

Even as someone who was only introduced to the series this year by my Hunger Games superfan sister-in-law, and binged through The Hunger Games (2012), Catching Fire (2013) and Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014), one must bear in mind this is not only the fourth in a series, but the second half of a film that was released a year ago.

Despite it only being a few months since watching the first three, I wish I had refreshed myself with Mockingjay – Part 1 before seeing Part 2. It was quite distracting, the first 20 minutes spent wracking my brains to remember exactly what had led up to this point and who some of the ancillary characters were.

“It’s all been very much good vs evil, us vs them, rich vs poor, revolutionary fare. Think of it as a dystopian sci-fi Les Miserables without the singing.”

Part 2 picks up immediately where Part 1 ended, as if there’s been a 12-month-long commercial break. The already difficult triangle between Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has been turned up to 11 courtesy of Peeta’s brainwashing at the hands of President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

With the tide of the revolutionary war turning in favour of the Districts, Katniss decides now is the time to cut the head off the serpent and assassinate Snow. Part 2 is essentially her journey to achieve this single-minded task.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about the series is that it has a nice simple plot without the labyrinthine ins and outs of a million characters. It’s all been very much good vs evil, us vs them, rich vs poor, revolutionary fare. Think of it as a dystopian sci-fi Les Miserables without the singing.

Katniss started out simply trying to save her sister from being plucked out as a tribute in the eponymous games, where teenagers battle each other to the death in an imaginatively booby-trapped arena; everything else has just barrelled along with her. None of it seems particularly planned as first one side then the other use her for their own gains. I guess even Che Guevara started out as an idealist and ended up as a T-shirt and bedroom poster icon.

SS_D109-311515.dngThe film sags in places, perhaps as a result of the marketing men wanting a five-hour two-parter rather than a taut three-hour single movie. Still, everyone makes the best of the time they have to build suspense regarding how their goals will be achieved and whether Katniss will ever get to live the victor’s life she was promised.

Like all good stories meant to both reflect our times and project a future that make us think harder about said times the series ticks its boxes. Dystopian sci-fi is all about the warnings. This is the tomorrow we are forging today and, as always, you can take from it what you want depending on your own leanings.

“Like many a blockbuster, there’s a point where you go, ‘Yes! What a great ending… that would have made.’”

This does mean that anti-government right-wingers might cite it as being all about their ideals at the same time as the revolutionary left are saying it’s about theirs but that’s what’s good and bad about allegorical tales. It’s the reason Tolkien specifically stated his works were NOT allegorical. (Not that it stopped untold authors writing about the allegorical nature of his books.)

In the essence of trying to remain un-spoilery I will say one quick thing about the ending of this, the film that ends the series. Like many a blockbuster, there’s a point where you go, “Yes! What a great ending… that would have made.” See if you can spot it.

A final point: I’m sure it bears no relation to how good this or any of the other films are but I can’t help wondering why a film produced by a woman (Nina Jacobson) based on a book written by a woman (Suzanne Collins) about strong women has to be written and directed by men (Peter Craig and Danny Strong, and Francis Lawrence, respectively). But as Jennifer Lawrence herself has pointed out, Hollywood still has a long way to go as far as the fight for equality and justice goes.

@dj_appleby

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Written by Debra-Jane Appelby

Loud, Yorkshire, opinionated, techno-geek, trans-woman comedian with a fondness for excessive culinary pleasures and too little exercise.