********* 5 out of 10 *********
Director: Francis Lawrence
Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland
Good things come an end, they say. But great movie franchises never do; they are immortalised with time, spanning into spin-offs, TV shows, books, theme parks, and what not. I wonder though if The Hunger Games series is worthy of being immortalised. Based on the Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of books, the fourth and the final movie of the series is the weakest of the lot. It fails on many levels, partly because of the sombre content of the third book, and partly because the film-makers were unable to make something more out of it. Many times fans of the source novels get annoyed when the adapted movies tinker with the plot, but I feel that it is justified completely. Movies are a different form of entertainment, and the manner in which you consume them is completely different from that for a book. Director Francis Lawrence chose to be too rigid about the movie plots aligning with the books, and so the brooding and dark story of Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay spills into two movies that fall short of entertainment and come across as just a shadow of the marvelous two films with which the franchise had begun. Oh, what a disappointing way to go!
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 would have been filmed along with Part 1 because the continuity can be felt from the first scene itself. There is no explanation provided to the audience on the backdrop of the film; so if you decided to get a look at this series by beginning with the finale, then good luck to you. The movie begins with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the face of the rebellion, still coming to terms with Peeta’s (Josh Hutcherson) hatred for her, planted by the manipulative tactics used by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) when Peeta had been a captive of the Capitol. The rebel group are making inroads towards the Capitol as their leader Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) continues to direct them from her underground lair. Katniss is desperate to go out on the field, battle on the front lines, and kill President Snow. But Coin wants her to remain the face for their propaganda to inspire others to join their fight. Katniss will of course once again defy orders for the sake of doing what she believes is right and just. But as the rebellion grows, Katniss is about to embark on a dangerous and personal mission, which will not only risk her own life but also those of whom she loves.
The Hunger Games series has a chilling dystopian backdrop, with the frightening concept of youngsters pitted against each other in a large arena for the pleasure of others. The first two movies though had an entertainment value; the high energy levels, the action-packed scenes, the drama going on in the background, all this provided a sense of mystery and anticipation on what would follow next. They were movies about survival, and carried with them the warmth of hope that Katniss Everdeen would somehow survive in this ordeal. When she did under the most difficult conditions, she became our hero. The hero Katniss Everdeen never grew in the next two movies that followed, which, if I may add, were unnecessarily split when the source material was not voluminous enough to justify it. The screenplay by Peter Craig and Danny Strong became too depressing, filled with despair almost at every corner, and lacking even a brief moment of mirth. Even though there is a huge war on-going, Katniss Everdeen has now been shunned to the sidelines, making her less effective as a character whom we can cheer for. While the book too had the same approach, a movie should not follow the same path, because it kills the entertainment that we come to seek from a 2-hour or so long film.
Director Frances Lawrence gets the look of the film spot on, something that has been a hallmark of the entire franchise (of which three movies have been directed by Lawrence). Work by cinematographer Jo Willems is absolutely brilliant. The movie’s sets give the impression that a large-scale war is on-going even though Katniss is not at the heart of it. Some of the action scenes that do come up are again superbly shot, bringing some badly needed excitement. Apart from that The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 suffers from inaction; it walks when it should jog, and it jogs when it should run. Some scenes that should have been truly emotional are not given enough time to develop, a far cry from the “I volunteer” scene in 2012’s The Hunger Games that still gives me the goosebumps.
There is a lot of fault that I find with the manner in which the people behind the scenes went about this finale. There is however no fault that can be laid on the feet of Jennifer Lawrence. She is the biggest reason to still watch this movie, as she once again does her best to showcase a tormented but fierce soul. It is easier said than done, for Jennifer Lawrence would have hardly gone through the trials and tribulations of Katniss, and yet, Lawrence wears that mask of defiance mixed with sadness on her face as if there is nothing more that she can relate to. The greatest thing that probably has emerged from this four-movie long franchise is the worldwide appeal of Jennifer Lawrence which would mean we get to see her more on the big screen, and for that we can be grateful.
Josh Hutcheron gets to be on screen more in this movie than the previous one, which allows the movie to break away from its war-theme at times, and give us a few tender moments between Katniss and Peeta, something that was so central to the first two movies. Hutcheron is absolutely adorable once again, and does a terrific job to make Peeta look like someone who can do with a bit of empathy. Liam Hemsworth as Gale on the other hand is the tougher and sterner guy, still seeking Katniss’ heart. Hemsworth gives his character an imposing personality, and eventually brings his story arc to a conclusion that in hindsight is perfect. Donald Sutherland as President Snow is menacing without being loud, and the best adversary that the movie could have had. With those intense eyes, Sutherland could chill you to your bones without saying anything. Other renowned actors, Julianne Moore, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, along with younger ones like Sam Claflin and Jena Malone, add variety and diversity to this Katniss show, and make for a wonderful supporting act, though they have to do with truncated roles in the movie.
What began in 2012 with much fanfare has finally come to an end. The series has already grossed more than $2.5 billion in worldwide box-office revenues on a production budget which is less than a fifth of the earnings, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is still running in theatres. But the final movie of the series had the lowest opening in North America of the entire franchise, not creating the same excitement that had followed the release of The Hunger Games in 2012. To answer what I began with, this franchise is unlikely to be counted amongst the ‘immortal’ franchises, despite its financial success, for it did not end the way it began. It did not give us the finale it deserved; it did not raise the stakes when it should have. The franchise did however give us a character worth remembering in Katniss Everdeen. And to her, I bid farewell!