By NATALIE TSAY
As the final installation of one of the most popular young adult series of the decade (and the catalyst for the current teen-dystopian trend), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 had a lot to accomplish. It had to show how high the stakes were for Katniss and the rest of Panem. It had to finish what Mockingjay — Part 1 started, a film that many accused of being merely a setup for Part 2. It had to give millions of fans closure and bring a mega-franchise to its epic conclusion. So did it accomplish all that lay before it? Maybe.
As Haymitch himself tells Katniss, “You don’t disappoint.” And it’s true — Katniss definitely doesn’t disappoint, and by Katniss I mean Jennifer Lawrence. While it’s been a few years since I read Mockingjay, I remember Katniss teetering on the edge of sanity. If we’re looking at how faithful the film Katniss is to the literary Katniss, Lawrence’s portrayal isn’t exact. Cinematic Katniss is still sombered by the revolution and feels the weight of her responsibility as the Mockingjay, but she retains a firm grip on reality — she’s extremely lucid, whereas her mental state in the novel was questionable. That being said, Lawrence has a few crazed moments, and they’re even more powerful because of the dramatic contrast they provide. Maybe it’s not really how Collins wrote the character, but I think Lawrence’s take on Katniss made her much more sympathetic. I, at least, was much happier with this version.
The cast is without a doubt, the franchise’s most valuable asset. Every single cast-member brings everything they’ve got to their roles, and that that is not insignificant. The main players and the peripheral ones alike seem to have this added depth, which is crucial in transforming a young adult novel into a serious film. The themes in The Hunger Games are not light in the least, and it’s clear that they’re not to be taken lightly. When watching Mockingjay — Part 2, I thought of something that Joss Whedon said about The Avengers: Age of Ultron. He called it a war movie with a price to pay, and the same could undoubtedly be applied to Mockingjay. There are more casualties than ever, and a large portion of the film is spent discussing military tactics. Mockingjay is about an uprising — a revolution to overthrow tyranny — and that’s what sets it apart from the other films in the franchise. In this respect, Mockingjay — Part 2 was a dark, gruesome and brutal success. No question.
Yet I had a few issues with Mockingjay — Part 2. First, there was a lot going on. Part of this was due to the massive influx of new characters. Catching Fire also saw an expanded cast, but there was time and space to develop Finnick, Johanna and the other allies. In other words, Catching Fire brought in a carload, of new friends while Mockingjay brought in a bus. Without delving too deeply into the new characters, it gets difficult to remember what they’re doing there, or who they even are. Don’t get me wrong — Cressida (Natalie Dormer), Pollux (Elden Henson) and Boggs (Mahershala Ali) were delightful when they had their moments, which wasn’t often. But I had the tendency to forget who was who every time someone threw out a name. I wish we had seen more of the rest of the gang, but specifically Jena Malone, who plays such a fantastic Johanna Mason. Though her lack of screen time was probably due to her minor role in the novel, it was still a shame that she was so underutilized.
On another note, while Mockingjay — Part 2 is purportedly the darkest and bleakest film of the series, I personally thought Part 1 was darker. In the first part, Katniss was being exposed to the horrors taking place in the districts. Everything was fresh and awful, and while it was all still terrible in Part 2, it wasn’t quite as visceral. The tragedies just hit me (and seemingly the characters) harder the first time around. For that or some other reason, I thought the first film had a much bigger impact. Plus Part 2 had a serious lack of Jennifer Lawrence singing a haunting, powerful song.
The real so-called problem I had with Mockingjay — Part 2 is the script. On one hand, there were some riveting moments: Katniss has a particularly good monologue toward the beginning of the film, and Haymitch reads her a beautiful letter toward the end. Both of these instances were very well done. On the other hand, however, some moments were really not good. There were times when the whole theatre broke out in inappropriate laughter and what was supposed to be dramatic came off as comedic instead. Often it was because of the circumstances or staging of the scene, but there were more than a few lines that really didn’t work for me. And the ending — that was just plain odd.
I don’t know quite what to say about Mockingjay — Part 2 on the whole. It certainly provided the epic ending (action-wise) that the series called for, and took the political theme and ran with it. Yet it also disappointed in a number of ways. My parting statements would be that I think I liked Part 1 better and I think they all looked way too styled. Like, who the hell is curling your hair into perfect, glossy waves during this war, Katniss?
Natalie Tsay is the Blogs Editor. She can be reached at [email protected]