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Be warned: spoilers are ahead, but not about “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.” Before discussing this saga, we must first acknowledge a problem with another favorite, “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” specifically an ongoing joke among cinephiles.
If you watch the film closely, you might note the role of Indiana Jones means absolutely nothing to the entire story. In the end, he isn’t able to save the Ark of the Covenant from the Nazis, and when the Nazis open it, some type of supernatural entity within kills them all. With or without Indy, the events unfold the same way.
This might feel off topic, but it’s at the core of what’s wrong with “Mockingjay,” both the book and the film. Suzanne Collins’ series is incredibly fun and wildly creative, but the third book is the weakest. This is discouraging when you consider Lionsgate’s decision to split it into two films. It appears necessary, but no amount of splitting can save the spotty story by the end – one that is too much like “Raiders” in its in its narrative “oops,” but not long-lasting quality.
Everything Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) does until the final moments of the story doesn’t matter. The lives lost don’t matter. It’s rather obnoxious to watch a story in which the lead character spends the entire film doing nothing of consequence. The only real thing we’re supposed to take away from the story is her emotional journey.
She has to learn what kind of person she wants to be, an outcome directly tied to all of Panem. But there’s a possibility that I’m reading into this far too much and giving far more credit to Collins and all the filmmakers involved. I usually favor the idea that filmmakers and anybody who creates in-depth narratives are intentional, never implementing ideas and conventions haphazardly. If an author says, “the chair rocked three times,” that’s not an unnecessary detail but a hint at something important to the story.
At the same time, I can’t help but be jaded by something else Lionsgate is known for – crappy horror films. In general, horror films have great promise, but the majority are lazy and not intentionally constructed . And it’s difficult not to watch “Mockingjay – Part 2” and see somet lazy work.
For the third time in this franchise, the film doesn’t know how to conclude. The ending of “The Hunger Games” in the book is fantastic. But instead of doing that, director Gary Ross, of the first film in the series, decided to give it the same treatment as the first “Twilight” film: a villain walking on stairs, in this case President Snow (Donald Sutherland), in slow motion. So hokey. I’ll give “Catching Fire” a little credit. But then “Mockingjay – Park 1” comes around with such a trivial conclusion. I’ve said it before: that film should have ended two minutes earlier. Instead they chose to go with a bland montage.
And then “Mockingjay – Part 2” comes around and includes the prologue from the book, killing any sense of flow simply to tug at the heartstrings. That’s not good filmmaking, that’s just adding unnecessary things that don’t make good characters and undermine the subtleties of these films.
And let’s be honest, these films are actually subtle. You won’t normally find overly explanatory and condescending dialogue in these films. That’s what makes these films different from other young adult adaptations. Lawrence is amazing as usual, but then she starts explaining everything she feels. From a therapeutic standpoint, that sounds healthy. From an artistic one, it’s lazy.
I will say this, the finale is rarely dull, filled with great performances and thrilling sequences. If only the story didn’t feel like a rough draft of something that could’ve been better.
And thus concludes the saga that put Lawrence on the map, making “the girl on fire” film’s favorite leading woman. But fret not fellow citizens of Panem, for Lionsgate is surely not done with this property. There is still much more to be said about those games of hunger, that privileged Capitol and the United States in some distant future.
Until then, we must press on, journeying into other dystopian young adult worlds like another “Divergent” film or the final “Maze Runner,” or a new property we know little or nothing about. Or we could just go outside and enjoy the sunlight, something so many from the Districts and Capitol war will never be able to do. Be well, and live long and prosper. Oh wait, that last one belongs to someone else.
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