And so “The Hunger Games” Trilogy, plus one, finally comes to pass. “Mockingjay Part 2” follows, expectedly, “Mockingjay Part 1”, the latter an invigorating upping of the stakes in post-apocalyptic Panem in which the whole land’s favorite Hunger Games contestant, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), was conscripted by the Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) spurred rebellion to help overthrow the dastardly regime of President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Though it ended strongly, it also just, like, ended, suddenly, without concrete resolution, because it had to, because they had to stretch it out into two parts, not for any storytelling reasons, really, just for box office reasons, because this is Hollywood and box office is greater than storytelling. So it probably goes without saying that “Mockingjay Part 2” feels stretched too thin, padded with superfluous action scenes and running a little over two hours because longer means “epic”, or something.
That’s not to imply that “Mockingjay Part 2” is a boondoggle. No, it opens well in opening where it left off, with Katniss’s one-time ally and fiancé Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) locked in solitary confinement on account of having been brainwashed by the government forces into killing Katniss. He’s trying to get his mind right, but that’s not easy, and anyway, there isn’t time because the rebels have to strike at the capital and President Snow while the iron is hot. So the upstarts hijack some serious weaponry and make haste. That is not, however, the track director Francis Lawrence’s film follows, at least not at first, welcomingly adhering to “Part 1’s” exploration of war as propaganda. We stay off the front lines to follow a small rebel group, with both Katniss and Peeta, who needs to be there for media reasons, re-staging action scenes to sell to the masses, like they are John Huston at The Battle of San Pietro. Meanwhile President Snow retaliates with his own misinformation communiques, as “Part 2” seems to be shaping up as a battle of behind-the-scenes persuasion rather than on-location bloodshed.
That changes as the small band encounters booby traps eliciting all manner of special effects, like tidal wave-y black tar, which precipitates an escape into the sewers, where they fend off some horde of CGI creations, and then become determined to break into the capital to assassinate President Snow. Like “Part 1”, action sequences are not the film’s forte, feeling suspiciously like filler, oddly comatose in all their faux-grandeur in spite of being so oppressively noisy, and there are more of them here than the first one as “Part 2” eventually loses interest in exploring how individuals in positions of power can manipulate the masses to tie everything up through big set pieces. Still, always lurking in the background is the idea that Alma Coin is something of a Lady Macbeth to her own Macbeth, scheming for the throne once she kicks Snow off of it, which briefly, tantalizing suggests that his big-budgeted Hollywood opus will actually go full-blown tragedy.
Whether that happens or not, I will let you find out for yourself, though I assume you have an idea. And anyway, if you’ve made it to “Part 2” you know this is as much about Katniss and Peeta’s Will They? or Won’t They? claptrap as political scheming. Perhaps claptrap is too strong a word. After all, their relationship throughout the movies was based less on love than playing their own version of Hunger Love Games, as if they were Panem’s Hiddleswift, concocting a narrative to appease Panem’s demands, their so-called love based as much on the political winds as affairs of the heart. But as the film’s scope widened and its ideology deepened from the first movie to the third (fourth), their relationship more and more came to resemble background noise amidst so many bigger fish to fry between Katniss and Snow and Alma.
Lawrence’s performance, too, as she became a pawn, and fought back against being a pawn, became more dour, as if Katniss was less interested in victory, per se, than in all this crap being over. And so, when the true reckoning of “The Hunger Games” arrives, it’s supposed to be when this series born of fakery and propaganda instituted by each side to cajole everyone else into doing what they want to do, is finally supposed to leave the ersatz behind for the genuine, for true love to bloom in full. Alas, it does not. It feels as forced as a Charles and Diana public appearance. The end is the fakest moment in the series.