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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2: movie review
Last year at this time, in my review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, I lamented the decision to split the movie into two parts: “I have no doubt that Mockingjay—Part 2 will get everything back on track and end the franchise with a bang (and a boom or two, plus a few ka-blams), but it will also likely remind us, 364 days from now, that Part 1 was little more than filler—the Styrofoam peanuts of the Hunger Games box.”
Though there are in fact a few bangs and ka-blams in Part 2, it takes well over an hour to get there-- which means that incessant feeling of “filler” just keeps lingering. And lingering. While partly the fault of novelist Suzanne Collins (the lack of an actual Hunger Games competition is still palpable), much of the blame also falls to returning director Francis Lawrence, who just can’t seem to get the movie out of first gear.
Part 2 picks up immediately after the final frames of Part 1; seriously, there isn’t even an establishing shot before we see a doctor examing the bruises Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) received at the hands of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) at the end of that installment. From there, the movie jumps around from one incongruous scene to another (Johanna annoying Katniss, Peeta waking up, Finnick getting married) before any sort of rhythm can be established. You would think that having the opportunity to spread the 400-page book over four and a half hours of screen time would allow director Lawrence plenty of opportunity to get a pace rolling. Nope.
Eventually, though, as Katniss and her posse begin their assault on the Capitol, things start moving… and how. The booby traps that await the team are clever (and downright harrowing), and there’s plenty of dark suspense to hold the audience’s attention. Lawrence (the actor) anchors the film with a performance that is utterly gripping; at times it’s so good that she seems like, well, an Oscar winner surrounded by little kids. What the script (by Part 1’s Danny Strong and Peter Craig) lacks in smart wordsmithing, Lawrence more than compensates for with yet another rock-solid turn. The story may not be entirely gripping (does anyone really care if Katniss ends up with Peeta or Gale?), but Lawrence is one of those can’t-take-your-eyes-off-her stars who can transform even the most pedestrian of scripts into riveting
Mockingjay - Part 2 may not be the prettiest of bows to finish off the wrapping on the Hunger Games box, but it’s a bow nonetheless-- a generally satisfying topper that could have been nicer, sure, but still works.