Hammering Out… is a series of movie reviews featuring a lively he said/she said discussion between John and Julie. Next up: THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2
JULIE: We’ve reached the end of an era, the era of hotly anticipated movies based on young adult novel series. (Yes, I know there will be new films based on other books, but there’s a reason The 5th Wave is being released in January. For YA movie franchises, the bloom is off the rose.) Harry Potter is done. (I suppose we have Fantastic Beasts to look forward to, but, let’s face it, it’s not the same). Twilight is through. (Unless they decide to make a movie based on the new gender-swapped version. Ew.) And now Hunger Games is over.
Katniss, Peeta, and Gale leave us forever (until the reboot five years from now) with a whimper. Mockingjay is the weakest book in the series and Mockingjay Part 2 is the weakest of the films. I had hoped, since the studio decided to split Mockingjay into two parts, that the film version would improve upon the novel, but that’s not what happened. What happened was that the filmmakers stayed true to the book, to the movie’s detriment.
My big problem with the book has always been that every major conflict ends with Katniss either getting knocked out or removed from the situation. Some have argued that this was Suzanne Collins’s MO — stop the big action scenes before the action, stop before the bloodshed. If we come out the other side complaining that we wanted more, we need to look at ourselves and ask if we’re any better than the people in the Capitol. Which is, I guess, an admirable point to make, but in practice it reads more like lazy writing. It reads as if Collins (and, apparently, the screenwriters) didn’t know how to write themselves out of the situations they put their characters into and decided to tell us how everything worked out rather than show us. It makes Katniss look weak and ineffective. She’s a pawn here, just like she’s always been. And that makes for a really, really dull movie.
But maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I just don’t get it, and I am no better than the fools in the Capitol.
What do you think, John? Am I a fool?
JOHN: How can you say the YA heat wave is nearly over when we have The Divergent Series – Allegiant Parts 1 and 2 to look forward to? (Side Note: yeesh, kill me now) No, I don’t think you’re a fool at all. I think you hit the nail on the head. The big story coming out of Mockingjay Part 2 is that it is the most unsatisfying conclusion to a beloved franchise since The Matrix Revolutions. You’ve touched upon a number of reasons why that is. As the movie started wrapping up, I just kept asking myself, THIS is what we’ve been building to? Yeah, I’ve read the book so I knew what was coming, but I really enjoyed Part 1, which gave me hope for this one.
Until now, The Hunger Games films have been remarkably consistent, with each installment improving upon the last. The cast is uniformly excellent, save for the pairing of Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson (not a bad actor, but just seems miles out of Katniss’ league). Director Francis Lawrence is a great visual storyteller. The effects are great. All of that still holds true for Mockingjay Part 2, but there are elements that get in the way. For one, the pacing. This is probably the least effectively paced of all the Hunger Games films, with quick bursts of action followed by needlessly dull (and way too many) dialogue scenes as the characters camp out for the night. The first hour of the movie is a huge bore. For another, the love triangle between Katniss, Gale (TEAM GALE!), and Peeta. It has been kept to a low simmer in the other movies, and was never really the focus, but here – they really play it up to the movie’s detriment. This should not be Twilight. The stakes are too high. Then there’s that finale. Or, series of finales as everything wraps up. So unsatisfying. So much “mommy washing” to coin your turn of phrase. I pretty much hated the last half-hour of this movie.
That’s a shame, because Lawrence is typically great here. Philip Seymour Hoffman gives his final performance, and it’s a joy to see him one last time. And, the best scene in the movie – a zombie (not sure what the heck those things were) attack in a sewer – is truly frightening and intense, but seems like something from an entirely different movie altogether.
JULIE: Team (book) Peeta! Hopefully movie Peeta will be hotter in the 2021 reboot.
Yeah, the mommy-washing of Katniss at the end of the movie is really egregious. It was bad in the book, but it’s worse here for some reason. Maybe because we’re seeing it on screen. I don’t know. But (SPOILER for the very end of the movie) the entire series ends with Katniss sitting on a picnic blanket with a baby in her arms. And she’s wearing a flowered dress. Katniss. In a flowered house dress. I don’t know why the film couldn’t have ended with her taking her kid out into the woods to teach him (or her) how to hunt. If they had to make her a mom, at least that would’ve been an ending worthy of her character.
There’s a lot of talent in this film, but none of them make a huge impression, except maybe Donald Sutherland. Every actor in this film is better than the part they were given.
On the Rocky Balboa movie rating scale, I give this one a Rocky V.
JOHN: Yikes, that’s not very good. But, I think I have to agree. I can handle being disappointed with a movie – that will ultimately fade – but the word I keep coming back to is: unsatisfying. You could say I left The Hunger Games… hungry… for something more. I’d give it 2 out of 5 stars. My official ranking of the series: Mockingjay Part 1, Catching Fire, The Hunger Games, Mockingjay Part 2. Let’s just hope Lionsgate leaves well enough alone and doesn’t try to build an expanded universe, like the rumors I’ve heard.
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