“The Hunger Games” franchise has always suffered from two contrasting factors pulling it in opposite directions; the one pushed by the studio trying to make a teen pop sensation, filled with love triangles and movie stars and glitzy action, and the other pushed by the source material, somber and melancholic, filled with allusions to revolutions and dystopian futures. Those conflicts come to a head in the final installment, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 2.”
Directed by Francis Lawrence, the film picks up right where the last film left off, with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) recovering from her injuries after a brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), tried to kill her. Determined to kill President Snow (a fantastic Donald Sutherland), the man who has caused her and so many others such heartache, Katniss blows past the leader of the resistance, Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), and sets off on a daring mission to infiltrate the Capitol headquarters, assisted by a band of fellow soldiers, including her longtime friend/romantic interest, Gale (Liam Hemsworth).
While the last film was a mostly humdrum, sleep-inducing affair, this final film is filled with action pretty much from the get-go. The action sequences themselves are not particularly impressive, but they are engaging enough.
The problem is that the film could really say so much more about the current political climate and how violence has become a form of entertainment and how social revolutions transpire, but the storyline is bogged down by its need to adhere to a PG-13 rating and emphasize its teen appeal.
Jennifer Lawrence appears tired of the role of Katniss and who can blame her; with each successive film, the concept has grown more and more stale. Without any actual Hunger Games in the final two films, the interest in the story is markedly lower. It certainly does not help that the third book is the weakest written of the three, with Katniss having few substantial decisions in the plot. With her on the sidelines being swallowed up by events out of her control, the viewer loses emotional stakes in the character. She really needs to be front and center, directly confronting the forces of antagonism with legitimate stakes in her life, regardless of what’s written in the books (the conclusion of the film is a prime example of a protagonist needing to participate more). It can not be stated enough that film adaptations work best when the source material is used as a guideline, not a blueprint. Katniss simply needs to drive the plot more for there to be sustained interest in the movie.
The film is also in such a rush to get through the narrative that it cares little for potential character-building moments. For that reason, the emotional impacts of many important moments are lessened because we are not fully immersed in the character’s lives. It is another one of the problems of splitting films in parts and releasing them years apart; the halves are not as powerful as their sum.
The film is exciting at times, moving at others, but really feels like a missed opportunity as it is more of a by-the-numbers project. Film series should built up to their conclusions and “The Hunger Games” got less interesting with each passing sequel.