THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2
MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Jennifer Lawrence as KATNISS EVERDEEN
Josh Hutcherson as PEETA MELLARK
Liam Hemsworth as GALE HAWTHORNE
Woody Harrelson as HAYMITCH ABERNATHY
Donald Sutherland as PRESIDENT SNOW
Philip Seymour Hoffman as PLUTARCH HEAVENSBEE
Julianne Moore as PRESIDENT ALMA COIN
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
BY KEVIN CARR
As far as blockbuster movie franchises go, “The Hunger Games” certainly began with a bang and ended with a bit of a whimper.
Well, not really. All four “Hunger Games” films have been wildly successful, helping to bring young adult fiction into the mainstream. Still, both “Mockingjay” films saw a bit of a box office depression after the first two installments became phenomena. For years, I have been attributing this to the fact that the third book was unnecessarily split into two parts in a pretty apparent attempt to squeeze more money out of the moviegoing public.
Revisiting “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” on Blu-ray, I realize that the release of two half-movies rather than a single cohesive film was only part of the problem. Sure, all the same problems are there. “Mockingjay – Part 2” suffers from the same things “Part 1” did. It’s overly grim, relying on the teen angst angles (which never quite worked in the movie versions of the story) to play out the drama. It also is painfully padded at times, filling the two-hour-plus running time with multiple dialogue scenes and very little action. This is a sharp contrast to the first two films, which of course still had these elements but balanced it all with a good amount of Hunger Gaming along the way.
The other reason that “Mockingjay – Part 1” never lived up to its previous films in story or box office – and why “Mockingjay – Part 2” suffered an even bigger blow at the box office – is that this third story is vastly different from the first two. It’s dour contemplation about the nature of war and the collateral damage inflicted upon the innocent may have charged some critics with more respect, but it’s a real downer and makes it hard to root for the heroine (one who never seems to understand the very real mortal dangers surrounding herself and her friends).
I suppose this last installment of the series fits better as a back-to-back watch with its predecessor (though I imagine that four hours of movies would be a bit of a slag for anyone but the biggest fan). Still, as far as Blu-ray or DVD purchases go, if you’ve got the previous three films, it makes sense to pick up this movie as well… or hold out until the two-movie set appears on Christmas lists in six-to-nine months.
Being only half of the story, this plot is rather simple: Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) continues her propaganda work as the Mockingjay. She tags along with a strike team to infiltrate the Capital in order to take the fight to President Snow (Donald Sutherland). However, the dirty dealings in war put her at odds with the opposition – in particular President Coin (Julianne Moore), who is increasingly losing control of the Mockingjay.
Like the previous films, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” looks pretty slick, matching the production value of “Part 1.” Unfortunately the gray look of a war-torn Panem isn’t nearly as visually interesting as the Arena for the first two “Hunger Games” films.
I can’t say I’m terribly sad to see the series go as it did overstay its welcome a bit. However, it was partly satisfying to get to a final conclusion.
The complete package comes with a Blu-ray, a DVD and a Digital HD version of the film. The marketing touts more than five hours or extras, though more than two hours of those fall into the commentary category (which is decent if not a bit overly self-congratulatory throughout). Still, there’s a nice in-depth eight-part documentary about the making of the film itself, focusing on the cast, the visual effects, costume design and the post-production process.
Additional bonus features include “The Hunger Games: A Photographic Journey” about the still photography on the movie, “Cinna’s Sketchbook” about the costume designs and how they fit into the story itself and “Panem on Display” about the Hunger Games traveling exhibition.