Movie Review: The Hunger Games – Mockingjay (Part 2)

The final installment of The Hunger Games saga has arrived. Alas, it is not the swift and painless end I’ve been longing for. Katniss and crew limp along for one last poorly written, haphazrdly directed and goofy CGI laden adventure, straight into the heart of the doldrums of Panem’s Capitol.

In my review for Hunger Games 3 [Part 1],  I laid out a laundry list of complaints with the film. Any hopes that Mockingjay Part Deux would rebound from the mistakes of it’s predecessor were smashed almost immediately. We get another drab slice of vanilla sci-fi aimed at tweens who wouldn’t know a true post-apocalyptic thriller if they were dragged kicking and screaming down Fury Road themselves. What many had hoped would be the grand bookend to The Hunger Games [sort of] trilogy ends up being a bland whimper, low on the “wow” factor and heavy on the “meh.” This is largely due to Lionsgate’s decision to split Mockingjay into two separate films, which forces each movie to drag along at a snails pace, stretching one book’s plot between them in an excruciating attempt to kill time. Mockingjay 1 was all build up with no climax, part two is one climactic set piece after another sandwiched between boring, ‘we get the picture already’ exposition. Had this been one movie instead of two, the amped up action scenes might have matched the sheer spectacle of Catching Fire and the original film, instead we’re left with a mindless barrage of explosions and CGI  that leaves the saga’s high stakes final assault on the Capitol feeling seriously underwhelming.

Mockingjay Part 2 isn’t all bad however. Josh Hutchinson’s portrayal of brainwashed/PTSD Peeta is pretty fun. While his character is written as an annoying caricature, Hutchinson shines in psycho mode. He’s the only one onscreen who doesn’t mope around like an automaton from the Star War Prequels. Julianne Moore also excels as the icy President Coin, channeling Maude Lebowski’s calculating indifference. The rest of the all-star cast is largely wasted, with Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks and even Donald Sutherland all reduced to mere cameos. Jennifer Lawrence still hams it up with her best OMG faces and tries her best to sell us on the series’ terribly contrived love triangle but it’s obvious she’s saving her real effort for her next David O. Russel project. It’s telling that the most exciting scene of the entire movie is director Francis Lawrence’s homage to Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi classic, Alien. When Katniss leads her rebel squad into the sewers under the Capitol in a stealthy sneak attack, the gang is hunted by a pack of mutant creatures called “mutts” in a tense scene reminscient of Alien‘s Xenomorph terrorizing the Nostromo’s air vents.  The Wall Street Journal agrees, saying:

The “Alien” influence, specifically when Tom Skerritt’s character Dallas is seeking the titular beast through his spaceship’s ducts, is apparent in the “Mockingjay Part 2” sewer scene’s sense of claustrophobia and darkness.

Again, this is Mockingjay 2.0’s most entertaining sequence. You’d probably be better off just watching Alien in the first place.

GRADE: C-

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