The prevalence of the man bun; a character who has been tattooed and modified to look like a cat; plenty of political machinations; a subterranean decent in which our hero battles nasty creatures; and lots and lots of exposition— all this and more makes “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” a frightfully messy series finale.
If you thought that the third film in the blockbuster “Hunger Games” franchise was a little slow, prepare yourself, “Part 2” is more talk than action. An undeniable must see for fans and even casual viewers, the effort is made to tie up all the loose ends, but it should have been more showing and less telling. The result is a baggy experience lacking the structure and momentum that marked the first two films. Still, there are moments that will satiate and, thankfully, the games have finally ground to an end, at least, until the spin-off or the inevitable remake.
“Mockingjay – Part 2” picks up where “Part 1” left off. The revolution is well underway. The various districts are battling one another as each jockeys for position. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is recovering from injuries to her throat at the hands of Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), and Coin (Julianne Moore) together with Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) plot various methods to win over the hearts and minds of the rebels and the loyalists. It is busy and confusing for those of us not intimately familiar with the source material. My thought is that some text on screen explaining the various camps and their proclivities may have made things less murky. Still, we quickly get up to speed as the forces unite against the Capital and undertake one last bloody siege.
The love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) continues, but given Peeta’s mental state it is even more strained. As viewers might remember from episode three, the Capital broke Peeta mentally and turned him against Katniss even to the point where he wants her dead. It is this part of the story that is frustrating but offers the greatest potential for emotional weight. The sensitive Peeta has been wounded and the trust between he and Katniss severely damaged. This gives Gale an opening, but the war intervenes.
Meanwhile, President Snow (a wonderful Donald Sutherland) plays out the game once again. His strategy is to turn the Capital into a gaming zone/colosseum and permit the game masters to unleash their traps on the rebels. This scary contrivance sets up a couple exciting moments, but ultimately proves to be illogical and unsatisfying. Unlike the games, the traps are scattershot and save for one trap, easily avoided. There’s just no art to them as they manifest themselves as crude flame throwers and obligatory machine guns. What could have put the narrative on edge, just seems superfluous.
The conflict between the two warring presidents, Coin and Snow, is an exercise in politics as much as in warfare. And Moore is solid in the largely one-dimensional role. But Sutherland is fantastic having so much fun as the scary but grandfatherly Snow that you might find yourself rooting for him.
Sadly, the “Games” had to end, and war is certainly messy. The surprise is that after generating so much good will in the prior installments this emotionally cold concluding chapter fails to make us feel anything significant. I suppose that fatigue has set in and the need to answer all the nagging questions becomes tedious. This is most apparent in the way the script has been modified to account for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s untimely death. But “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” is necessary if for no other reason than to free Lawrence and company, whose careers have continued to blossom, from the ruthless constraints of the competitive colosseum.