Someday I'll explain it to you. Why they came. Why they won't ever go away.

Someday I’ll explain it to you. Why they came. Why they won’t ever go away.

 

The thing bout endings is that they come with expectations. After sitting with rapt attention for movement after stunning movement of a beautiful symphony, only something lively that concludes with a cymbal crash will do. As audiences, we are not primed for complexity, for nuance. We want everything to end “with a bang” as they say…even if it means cutting corners in every other respect. Trouble is, “the bang” isn’t always the most interesting conclusion.

Such is the struggle between the expectations and dashed opportunity of THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY part 2

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) begins this final chapter recovering from a vicious attack. The assault came not from any enemy or insurgent, but by the hand of her childhood friend, and supposed partner Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Peeta, recently extracted from behind enemy lines, has been brainwashed to believe that Katniss is out to kill him. One might think this would scratch him from active duty in a rebellion, but these are desperate times.

In fact, Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), president of the resistence, does just the opposite and pushes a somewhat-repaired Peeta out to the front lines alongside Katniss in an effort to show that even a supposed traitor can be redeemed in the new Panem. Her plan is to continue filming Katniss and Peeta “engaging” the enemy, but well back from enemy lines. Every the stubborn one, Katniss sneaks away from central command and slips to the front lines. Soon she finds herself embedded with Squad 451 (Panem’s answer to Seal Team Six), led by her acquaintance Boggs (Mahershala Ali) and also including her lifelong love Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth).

However, this squad too is merely for the camera, making it a prime group to fill out with Peeta and Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), with super-documentarian Cressida (Natalie Dormer) there to capture it all.

As they advance step by precarious step into the capitol, Squad 451 is faced with a neverending series of boobie traps that are well-hidden, ferociously lethal, and designed by The Gamesmakers of The Hunger Games themselves. Every inch closer to President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is met with new bloodshed, and every sideways glance is laced with distrust.

After all she has been through, is Katniss Everdeen the champion the resistance believes her to be? Ans even if she is…might it be possible that she has been fighting for the wrong side all along?

 

katniss everdeen

 

There is a lot to like about MOCKINGJAY pt. 2. Jennifer Lawrence gives one of her signature roles a well-played finale. The nature of who “the good guys” are is fittingly questioned, and Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers a heartfelt beacon for Katniss Everdeen to follow by way of Woody Harrelson.

Despite all of those virtues, one can’t help but feel as though this film walked into the fight with one hand tied behind its back.

In considering this film, we must also consider its predecessor – since we have been sold a bill of goods that they are to be taken together as one, big, super-sized narrative. In so doing, we realize that “The Complete Mockingjay” spent a long time at the podium without saying much at all. It’s beginning arrived with promise, and made us reflect on just how much salesmanship goes into an armed conflict. We were told to rally behind icons, and distrust the devil in white. We sat in on meeting after meeting about the fate of Panem. In short, we were handed a promissory note of the shock and awe to come.

But taken together, this story feels less like shock and all, and more like ache and pain.

We have borne witness through two rounds of citizens slaughtering each other in the name of honouring their past. We have seen children laid to waste, and watched as tower after tower of this kingdom called Panem caught fire in the name of revolution. However, now that it has arrived, not only was the revolution not televised, but someone forgot to tell most of the revolutionaries to report.

Our heroes – flanked chiefly by tertiary characters we have trouble identifying and/or care nothing about – move mostly through abandoned streets and pitch black tunnels. They face no great evil, few brutal obstacles. They know they are being watched, but we don’t really care about the watchers. Our heroine and heroes have faced so many dastardly and frightening opponents on the path that has brought them to this point. Now, in its final straightaway, they’re given more or less a plowed road to walk.

One can’t help but feel this conclusion is…weak.

Major characters are taken from us in a blink…those who survive do not get to grieve. Political manoeuvres outweigh the human cost where screen time is concerned and while the question of trust is posed time and again, nobody ever seems to take the time to answer it.

Here’s the ugly truth about the HUNGER GAMES franchise that nobody wants to admit: it’s ending was always problematic. From the moment that third book was first published, its narrative felt rushed and without weight – the final blows dealt as is they were trying to deliver the knockout punch before the final bell. As the property became more and more beloved, the film’s producers began to see these books as a holy trilogy. They aren’t. They’re not even close.

When word came down that MOCKINGJAY was going to be split into two films, the possibility presented itself that some of the issues with the book and its rushed conclusion could be addressed. Instead, the filmmakers decided to allocate all of the extra care to the story’s beginning – a part that needed no help. The result is something that feels even more out of balance when consumed as a whole. MOCKINGJAY part 1 covers the first third of this problematic work; MOCKINGJAY part 2 covers the final two-thirds. Do the math.

Adapting the work into a new medium gave all involved a chance to improve upon the source material and turn it into something far more fitting the phenomenon it has become. Instead, they genuflected before it, and refused to admit that during this fourth and final lap, the empress wore no clothes.

Matineescore: ★ 1/2 out of ★ ★ ★ ★
What did you think? Please leave comments with your thoughts and reactions on THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY pt 2.