The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part II (dir. Francis Lawrence)

Posted: December 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

Watching “Mockingjay – Part II” is like reading the Wikipedia summary of the book.  All of the major plot points are there, but you will feel none of the emotion. Main characters die, and the movie rushes on without making you feel a damn thing. Twists are dealt with in a perfunctory manner, and the movie seems in a rush to finish itself up, which is odd since the book was split into two films ostensibly so that plot points would have time to breathe and be explored.  Alas, the book was really split into two films for simple commercial greed, with a first part that was heavy on exposition and politics but found by many to be boring, and a second part that rushes through the action leaving you feeling somewhat entertained, but ultimately empty.

 

When Quentin Tarantino made “Kill Bill”, it was split into two films simply because most American audiences won’t sit through a 4+ hour movie with an intermission, no matter how good the film is.  Don’t get me started on the short attention span of the philistines that populate the American moviegoing public, a population that can barely sit through 90 minutes without checking their phone, opening their mouths to say something, or getting bored.  In any case, “Kill Bill” was one movie filmed with one budget that was split into two films and thus allowed the studio to make twice as much money (more or less) based on a single investment. Sure, two films meant two marketing budgets, but they still saved a lot of money.  This lead to other studios thinking they can split a single story into two films (“Breaking Dawn”) or 3 films (“The Hobbit”) and make money hand over fist, even if there wasn’t enough story to justify the split.  The problem with “Mockingjay” is that part II might have had emotion if it built on the exposition of part I and we were talking about ACTS rather than films that many people are viewing a year or more apart from each other.  Should we care about a character dying when we barely see them in the film they die in, but had a much larger role in Part I that, combined with their death in part II, might have made the death mean something to the audience?  This is a case where the commercial concerns for the studio were in diametric opposition to the artistic concerns for the work.

 

The plot you should already know by now.  There’s a proletarian revolution against a dictatorship in a dystopian apartheid run by the rich bourgeoisie of the Capitol while 12 Districts, divided by what commodities they produce for the Capitol, join forces to oust the dictatorship.  I’ve always argued that “The Hunger Games”, in addition to being a satire of reality television, was pretty much Communist propaganda for teenage girls which, because of a universal message about economic inequality that was luckily timed to the 2008 financial crisis, grew beyond a YA audience to mass popularity.  “Mockingjay – Part II” focuses less on the particular politics and more on issues dealing with war, specifically PTSD and the psychological trauma associated with battle and torture, as well how fragile a post-war democracy can be.  These are heady topics for a YA book or film, and perhaps it’s for that reason that the plebeians in the audience view these films as simple action movie fodder with a love triangle, and some dismiss it unjustly as a mere “Battle Royale” knock-off, even though “Hunger” and “Battle” seem to have different targets in mind for their satire.  Perhaps the biggest conflict in the film happens very late, when Katniss has to make a decision about what the biggest danger is, and about whether a certain leader might be less a savor, and more of a betrayer to the revolution.  After all, what good is throwing out the Tsar if he’s just getting replaced by Stalin.

”Mockingjay” is well-made enough.  The performances are all solid, even if we know by now that Jennifer Lawrence can do better roles than this. Not that Katniss is a bad role, just that the film doesn’t do as much with her as it should.  The Gale storyline could have easily been omitted from the films (and the books, for that matter) and some of the dialogue is YA simplistic or overly expository, for instance.  The director, Francis Lawrence, doesn’t make the film as visually interesting as it could be.  After previous films showing the Capitol as a dayglo garish nightmare of opulence gone tacky and wild, the battle of the Capitol makes the city look like an anonymous concrete block wasteland, which does make it look more like real life war zones of today, but doesn’t help the film look like anything more than war PG-13-style.

 

Look, if you’ve read all 3 books and seen all 3 prior films (or 2.5 prior films) you’ll end up seeing this, and you’ll probably like it. I did. But, like me, you won’t FEEL anything, and probably walk out cold and blasé, which is not what this story deserves.  If you can, watch both “Mockingjay” films back-to-back. It may improve the whole endeavor for you. B-.

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