In a world of refugees and insurgents, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, hits the mark as both a socially relevant science-fiction film and formidable conclusion to Suzanne Collins’ epic blockbuster series, which grew grimmer and more violent with each passing installment. Set in a futuristic world where a so-called unified Panem exists, albeit factionalized into a dozen districts, the success of the series lay in how in-touch the series is with the present. It also features the final appearance by the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The film opens amidst the war that began in previous installments, a boiling rebellion that slowly snowballed after the “sparked” romance between Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) and their custom-shattering dual survival we saw in the original film.
The Mockingjay – Katniss Everdeen – continues her vendetta against the scrupulous leader of Panem, an aging and sickly President Snow (Donald Sutherland), in an attempt to rid the nation of tyranny and subjugation and bring peace to the land as the celebrity rebel leader of the cause. In effect, Katniss has practically become the Che Guevara of Panem.
However, Peeta is not Peeta anymore; he’s now a soulless machination of the government, blaming Panem’s woes on the poster child of rebellion, Katniss. Along with her entourage that includes Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Cressida (Natalie Dormer), and Finnick (Sam Claflin), the group escorts an unhinged Peeta through a boobytrapped Capitol and into Katniss’ personal assassination mission. The series can’t help but make every quest Hunger Games-esque.
Although this final installment is more than adequate, the film suffers from miscalculated pacing. The first half is an incredibly slow lead-in to the action, practically forcing you to forget you’re watching a huge blockbuster star-vehicle. When the action finally picks up in the latter half, the rest of the movie feels hastily chopped up with an inexplicable urgency to end the series, racing from one disjointed scene to the next.
Splitting the final installment into two films made sense with the Harry Potter franchise, as each book topped the next with ludicrous page counts. However, The Hunger Games trilogy isn’t known for its denseness, and arbitrarily separating the final book into two films is a hindrance to the overall arc of the third book. Part 1 felt entirely like a set-up and Part 2, in turn, feels like filler to the denouement. Once that arrives, the ending is sloppily rushed to the finish line. Mockingjay – Part 2 often feels like the third act of one complete movie. The ending of the series satisfies everything that requires satisfaction, yet never truly feels triumphant by the time the dust settles.
Combining the two into one complete film would have been enough to salvage and strengthen two flawed movies, but that would have meant sacrificing the considerable box-office profits that no doubt inspired the original separation.
The Hunger Games series began as a spectacle science-fiction, something along the lines of Death Race 2000, a brutal future where its citizens embrace violent sports at the expense of human life. As the series progressed the excitement and audience enthrallment of the Hunger Games faded when Katniss witnessed a world beyond mere games, a world mired in the same unhappiness and oppression of her poverty stricken District 12. Since the first installment, the movies have evolved into a social critique (Katniss’ journey of discovery and change), a quality that good science-fiction tends to possess. The series plucks at current events, and at times Panem can seem like a reminder of not just our historical record but of our current world situation of Syrian refugees, the Arab Spring, and terror attacks.
But for all its obvious narrative flaws, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 has plenty to offer besides action, and is a far cry of the politics of audience viewership of the first movie. This time around The Hunger Games series takes on the circularity of violence and the propensity to perpetuate violence as a coping mechanism – retribution and healing of pain. The boldness of the Hunger Games to take on such a tantamount statement, and refusal to gloss over or ignore the violent nature of society and history, is applicable to the geopolitics of the day, where tyrannical leaders leech off a country’s resources while marginalizing its citizenry, is strikingly relevant today.