'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2' review: Series limps to a violent end
Katniss's journey - for better or worse - ends in "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2" (opening in theaters Nov. 20). This franchise finale is a marginal improvement over the glacially slow and very boring "Mockingjay, Part 1" -- but that's only because this last film has a few more explosions. The overall "Mockingjay" story is a serviceable end to the "Hunger Games" series - but not one that can be called satisfying or very entertaining.
In short: Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) joins frontline as the rebel army advances on Panem's capitol city. While the army is intent on overthrowing the government, Katniss only means to kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and Liam Hemsworth also star. (Watch the trailer)
The first "Hunger Games" remains one of the undeniably great "YA" films to date and it introduced the rich and compelling Katniss Everdeen to a wider audience. "Catching Fire" further developed the interesting world of Panem - this series would not simply be about a "kids battle royale" - this was a world teetering on the brink of rebellion and war. Sadly, "Mockintgjay" never maintained the complexity or energy of the first two films -- "Part 1" and "Part 2" only functioned to wrap up several lingering plot points.
Theoretically, "Part 2" should have been a war movie - however, it's more a lumbering jaunt through a war zone than anything else. Much of "Part 2" is an uneventful journey, as Katniss and her allies lumber from one booby trap to the next. The Katniss-Gale-Peeta love triangle - more in the audience's face than ever before - fails to add any genuine drama. It's difficult to care much about "whose heart will be broken" when the fate of Panem and the lives of thousands are constantly in danger.
To the film's credit, "Mockingjay, Part 2" is arguably the most violent YA film ever made. This is an unflinchingly grim story that does not shy away from the story's more violent and tragic aspects. It forces to audience to see what Katniss sees as she wanders the hellish and embattled Capitol.
It's ultimately difficult to blame the filmmakers for the lackluster "Mockingjay" when the problem appears to be the source material. "Mockingjay" is a surprisingly thin story, where very little actually happens (plotwise). The filmmakers were hamstrung by a meager source material, which doesn't give its characters much to do. Drawing out the sparse plot plots between two movies only highlights how very little happens during the course of "Part 1" and "Part 2."
In the end, Lawrence and Sutherland will be remembered as perfectly cast in their roles as the reluctant leader and the tyrannical dictator. The dynamic between these two adversaries is much more compelling than the silly love triangle YA drama between Katniss-Gale-Peeta. Lawrence's Katniss is arguably the strongest dramatic performance of a character in any YA adaptation yet. But, to be fair, aside from "Harry Potter" the roster of YA characters is pretty shallow or weak (ie, "Divergent," "Twilight," "The Maze Runner," etc).
"Mockingjay, Part 2" is happy to put a button on the rebellion, the love triangle, the future of Panem and Katniss's place in the world. This series finale does what it has to do - but it does no more. It resolves long-standing story lines in an underwhelming tone that seems to reveal that even the filmmakers were too bored with the material to continue on with this drawn-out series.
Final verdict: The "Hunger Games" peaked with "Catching Fire," but never truly regained the energy or excitement of the second film in the franchise. "Mockingjay, Part 2" is a perfunctory franchise finale that wraps up several storylines - but it does so without any obvious excitement or joy.
"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2" is 2 hours, 17 minutes in length and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic material. The final "Hunger Games" film opens in theaters nationwide Nov. 20.