Mockingjay Part 2 to me represents the biggest problems of the modern blockbuster. The trailers for the for the first part of this story did not engage me, but upon catching The Hunger Games late on TV the other night, I reconsidered my thoughts on the series.
I had always appreciated the way the series reminded me of Doctor Who. A story about an entire society’s issues as represented through a few key aspects of cultural satire with an adventure largely set in a few cheap locations and some dodgy special effects? Oh yes, Suzanne Collins is writing for the same people as Russell T Davies with this simple universallity of the tale.
None of this is a problem, but Mockingjay Part 2 or Hunger Games 4 is full of them. Despite reading the first book, I have not engaged with all of the source material. However, my two companions did have conflicting opinions as soon as we left about whether the story of Mockingjay could have fit one film.
It could have. Both of these films could have done with a speed boost, so slightly, and been one 3-hour film. A bit more Lord of the Rings.
There’s little point reviewing the many aspects everyone is praising. Lawrence, Hemsworth, Donaldson, and particularly Julianne Moore excel in their roles. This world is entirely believable. The lack of world-building in the first two films does not create any issues, as the world-building is for once, not important. It is missing and the film is missing a trick. The civil war story that Part 1 was formed upon is largely missing here. The districts are just united. The bombing of a key fortress to attack the capital happens in the background. Katniss’ stealth propaganda mission that will follow the front-line attacks is the validation for never seeing these horrifying-sounding front-line battles.
The film falls under its own weight. We spend a lot of time discussing the dangers that the capitol presents, and spend a lot of time watching the characters debate their relationships with-another. This counts for tension. This counts for the drama. Maybe I’m missing the point, but it is a slow paced film, often for the better, but regularly for the worse.
The tension is rewarding, particularly in the considerably long but well-paced sequence set underground, but the issues of the first film’s shaky cam return. The action sequences are lengthy when they arrive, but are keen to feel fast and fleeting, so the camera angles are sporadic, and unlike in Marvel Films, you can’t quite tell who’s fighting who at all times.
What we get is a mixed film. It wants to be about politics and about its civil war of ideas and about corruption, but its about a group of people with inconsistent skill levels talking about their situation. The action sequences are wonderfully slow, and it helps make the film feel more real.
We did not need two films for this story, but we did need this story. Its rich, layered, thoroughly well-performed, brilliantly produced, but just too slow, repetitive, and crushes itself under its own weight. The series goes out with a (good) whimper rather than a bang.