Well, I finally went to watch The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part II.
It’s okay, but I’m pretty sure it’s my least favorite of the series.
The Rebellion marches on the Capitol. Meanwhile, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is super determined to personally assassinate President Snow (Donald Sutherland) after what he’s done to Peeta (Josh Hutchinson). (And, you know, what he’s done to everyone else. But yeah, it’s still mostly about Peeta.) Unfortunately, getting through the Capitol to the President will be quite the challenge, and not everyone will make it out alive.
1. This portion of the review might be very brief because virtually everything I want to say includes Spoilers. What I can say, however, is that something about this movie’s pacing feels a little off to me. I’m not entirely sure why, but I was very aware of the time while watching. Every Hunger Games movie has been over two hours long, but this is the first movie in the series that’s actually felt long to me. I’m not entirely convinced it needed to be over two hours at all. (And the last two minutes of the film? Wholly unnecessary. But we’ll discuss that later.)
2. In case you were curious: Gale (Liam Hemsworth)? Still a total assclown.
The resolution of his story really took me by surprise, and I honestly think it could have worked well . . . but his storyline over the entire series has been so underdeveloped and obnoxious that it didn’t fully build the way it should have. It kind of works, but it also kind of doesn’t, and thus Gale remains a whiny douchenozzle with not much to redeem him.
I will have to watch Liam Hemsworth in something outside of this series to gain a better grasp of his range because, while never particularly impressed with him, I have to admit he never gets a whole lot to work with. It’s easily possible that he’s far more talented than the role of Gale lets him show. (Or possibly that he’s one of those actors that’s ten times better with his natural accent.)
3. I do really like Peeta’s arc, though.
When the last movie ended, Peeta had been brainwashed (or hijacked, which is totally the same thing) and was not having the best time. When I watched the trailers for this movie and saw him in the middle of a war zone, well, I just assumed they were going to resolve that whole brainwashing thing stupidly fast, and I was fully prepared to be annoyed about it. But, to my surprise, I actually enjoy how the story plays out. I have one small nitpick (well, maybe two), but they’re both fairly minor things. And I liked Josh Hutcherson’s performance quite a bit, particularly in the first scene you see him, when he switches from Sorta Okay to Totally NOT OKAY. It’s pretty good stuff.
4. If you’re wondering why I haven’t talked about Katniss yet . . . well, she’s pretty much the same as she’s been for the past three movies.
Jennifer Lawrence gives the same kind of excellent performance that you pretty much expect from Jennifer Lawrence. Katniss’s priorities still seem a little screwy sometimes, but they aren’t nearly as annoying as they were in the last movie. She has a few nice moments (one pretty badass, one super emotional) but all in all, there’s not much more to say here that I haven’t already said in the past three reviews.
5. There were a few people I wish we could have seen a little more from. Johanna (Jena Malone) is definitely one of those people.
Man, she is a force on screen. I would watch the hell out of a Hunger Games movie that was all about Johanna. Like, I could possibly even watch a prequel with her at the Games, and who cares if I already know the inevitable result? She’s that awesome. Jena Malone really needs to be in more shit that I’m interested in.
But yeah, I wouldn’t have minded seeing a few more scenes with Johanna and Katniss, or Johanna and Peeta. The same goes for Finnick (Sam Claflin), who I generally enjoy, even though there really isn’t a whole lot to him. (Basically, I want to write a bunch of missing scene fanfic, and not just for this particular movie but for the whole series. Considering that we’ve got about eight to ten hours of screen time to work with, we really never spend that much time with the supporting cast members, which is unfortunate. Maybe if we didn’t spend so much godamn time on the BS love triangle.)
But no one, I mean, no one gets shortchanged on screen time like Gwendoline Christie.
Sweet Jesus. I completely forgot Christie was in this movie, so when she popped up, I was super excited, and then . . . nothing. She’s basically in the whole thing for like 45 seconds, and then just entirely disappears. Apparently, Christie replaced Lily Rabe, who had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts, and I know the art of filmmaking is significantly different than the art of watching and overanalyzing films, but Jesus Christ, what was Lily Rabe’s scheduling like that it couldn’t even afford the time for this totally inconsequential role?
And . . . you know, I think that’s really it for what I can say outside the Spoiler Section.
Guys, I just don’t know about this one. I like that the movie doesn’t shy away from the dark material, like, there’s some fairly grim stuff in here. Certain scenes work really well for me. And I like a lot about the actual conclusion of the story (save those last stupid two minutes). But still, I found this film a little underwhelming, particularly compared to the other movies in the series.
Of course, so many franchise conclusions are underwhelming. There’s a poll question for you: franchises that end on up-notes. I would have said Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, since that’s my favorite of the trilogy–yes, over Raiders–but then Crystal Skull got made, so. I’m not sure I can think of one. Thoughts?
I’m not sure I feel like going through the whole plot today, especially since 90% of the plot basically goes like this: Katniss and her people go through the Capitol. Something terrible happens. People die. Katniss and her people continue going through the Capitol. Something terrible happens. People die. Rinse, repeat.
So let’s just continue our list of random notes, shall we?
6. Here are my minor nitpicks about Peeta’s story:
A. Throughout the movie, Peeta can’t tell the difference between real memories and fake memories and has to ask Katniss to confirm their legitimacy. Which is super cool, honestly, except that he never actually seems to have any false memories. Of course, he is screaming about how everything is Katniss’s fault in the very beginning of the movie (and not pretty screaming, either, like we get full-on spittle and everything), but I still think the story would have benefited from him asking at least one question like, “You killed Rue. Real or not real?” Or even something that’s innocuous but still wrong, like “Your favorite weapon is a trident” or “I can’t paint worth a damn.”
B. Katniss apparently has Magic Lips because once she kisses Peeta after escaping the tunnels, he’s pretty much fully cured. It’s not a huge problem for me because he has been slowly improving over the course of the film, and Big Things need to happen without Hijacking Drama getting in the way. Not to mention, the kiss is actually a nice callback moment–there are a lot of good callbacks to the earlier films in the series.
Still. Anytime anyone has Magic Lips, I feel obligated to mock it at least a little. (This includes myself, by the way. I’ve totally used Magic Lips. Although in fairness to myself, I do write about fairy tales a lot.)
7. Going into the movie, I was pretty sure that this guy would die.
Still, I hoped. But then that asshole got married, and I was like, Seriously, Finnick? Are you TRYING to get horribly ax-murdered? And THEN they’re fighting the CGI mutt things in the sewers, and Finnick comes charging in with his trident and triumphant battle music, and I’m like, Okay, so, you’re about to kick the bucket in three . . . two . . . one . . .
And he did. Alas. Goodbye, Finnick Odair. You were decently attractive, and I liked you once you had a mental breakdown because I’m a terrible person like that. I didn’t at all care about your love story with that one girl who nobody gives a shit about, but you had a few nice friendship scenes with Katniss and some background friendship scenes with Peeta, and I did appreciate those.
8. Finnick’s death was probably the saddest for me as an audience member. Boggs was kind of sad, but he was even less surprising than Finnick. If you had asked me to put money down on one character getting killed by the end of the movie (other than Snow, obviously) I would have put all my money on Boggs.
Prim’s death did surprise me, and it was sort of sad, I guess, but mostly because of Jennifer Lawrence’s excellent scene with the cat. Prim never really had much character in the movies. She’s basically just a giant plot device. Still, I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting it at all. Killing off Prim in this series is a huge kick to the jewels, like, can you imagine Saving Private Ryan if they fucking killed off Private Ryan?
Of course, the whole point of the series, I suppose, is that the rebellion has far surpassed one girl’s desire to save her sister. Still. I’d be pretty annoyed about Prim’s needless death if it wasn’t for one thing:
9. Holy shit, Gale was kind of, maybe responsible! Jesus. Haven’t I been saying all along what a giant douchenozzle this guy is? Even I had no idea how right I was.
Here’s the thing: this unexpected turn in the story works for me so, so well, or at least it almost does. Gale’s whole thing is that he’s supposed to protect Katniss’s family, right? But then District 12 is bombed and all those people die, and Gale is so determined to get revenge and destroy the Capitol and end the war that he’s willing to do whatever is necessary, including sacrifice hundreds of civilians, even children. And while it’s a little unclear to me exactly how much Gale was responsible for the bombing–I think it was his plan? Or at least his idea, which Coin put into motion without his actual consent–it’s enough that I completely buy the moment when Katniss turns away from him forever. Going into this movie, I never would have suspected that. I figured one of the guys would bite it in some big noble sacrifice move, or maybe that Katniss would choose Peeta and Gale would go mope in a corner for all eternity or something. But never in a million years would I have guessed that Gale would do something so terrible that Katniss would turn her back on her lifelong friend.
As a series arc, on paper? Guys, I adore it. It’s heartbreaking, but also kind of brilliant: Gale succeeds in one mission (win the war) but loses two others to do it (protect Katniss’s family and win Katniss’s love). And I really do buy it from a guy whose whole hometown was obliterated, who probably feels massive survivor’s guilt for not being able to rescue more people from District 12. The cost of war and the cost of revenge get thrown around a lot in stories, but usually they’re pretty obvious and heavy-handed on the moralizing. Here, though, it’s kind of beautifully done, at least on paper.
Where Gale’s arc falls down, though, is where it always fall down for me: the whiny Love Triangle bullshit. If the prior movies focused on Gale’s PTSD the way it focused on everyone else’s, it would totally work. But Gale gets, what? One scene of genuine emotional trauma in Mockingjay, Part I before he’s back to whining about how much Katniss loves Peeta? For this plot twist to really work, Gale’s angst needs to be about the 9,000 people who died in District 12, not about which boy Katniss ends up with.
But, unfortunately, that’s almost all Gale’s seemed to care about for the past four movies now, so . . . yeah, it doesn’t work nearly as well as it could.
10. Speaking of which, Gale telling Peeta (before Prim dies, obviously) that Katniss will choose whomever she can’t live without? UGH. Again with the ‘love is all that matters, friendship is a pile of steaming manure next to it’ bullshit. Yes, Katniss would have had to choose a boyfriend eventually, Gale–assuming you guys couldn’t just agree on a poly threesome, which you, sadly, are clearly incapable of doing–but if you hadn’t indirectly helped get her sister KILLED, I suspect she wouldn’t have been able to live without either of you. Assclown.
Also, Gale offering to kill Peeta if Peeta went Dark Side again, like it was some noble sacrifice on his part? Yeah, that totally made me and my friend Lindsey snicker. Nice try, Gale. We all know how gleeful you’d be on the inside if you got to eliminate the competition.
11. It was so ridiculously obvious that Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) was behind the bombing (and not President Snow) that the protracted reveal–which didn’t even take all that long–really annoyed me. Even as the bombing was happening, I figured it out, mostly because Snow had no motive AT ALL to invite all the refugees to his place, only to blow the shit out of them. Seriously, why? Who would buy that? I understand why Katniss didn’t wake up in a hospital bed immediately yelling, “It’s a conspiracy!” but I also thought she was smart enough to figure it out without Snow having to explain everything in his typically nefarious way.
12. Also dumb: sometime between Mockingjay, Part I and Mockingjay, Part II, President Snow developed the consumption?
Oh, sure, I bet he was secretly dying offscreen for a lot longer than that, but like, why? To further prove that killing Snow is a futile act that ultimately will do no good? Yeah, guys, we understood that from Alma Coin proposing another fucking Hunger Games, like Jesus fucking WEPT. (I’d have given a lot to see Finnick’s reaction face to that proposal.) Of course, Snow’s old and it’s not, like, out of the realm of possibility that he’d be sick, but the whole thing just felt so weak and unnecessary. I don’t think they even bothered naming Snow’s disease, just had him cough up blood a few times, practically a staple of Death and Dying in Hollywood, especially when the character has either been shot in the chest or has tuberculosis. I mean, Jesus, Snow had a white handkerchief and everything.
13. Snow’s unseen but presumably horrible death at the hands of an angry mob did work well for me, though. And Katniss killing Alma Coin was pretty badass. (I kind of figured that was Katniss’s plan from the moment she agreed to another Hunger Games, but I was certain when I saw that Alma had stupidly positioned herself above and behind Snow.)
Farewell, Coin. I probably should have known you were a villain immediately. That seems to be the role Academy actresses go for when it comes to MG and YA. (Patricia Clarkson, Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Angelina Jolie–well, sort of.)
14. It is my personal opinion that you probably shouldn’t bring a Tiger Woman (cleverly named Tigris) into the fourth film in a franchise if there have never been any kind of animal people anywhere else in the prior films, and especially if Tiger Lady’s tiger-like qualities really aren’t at all important to the story. Yes, yes, President Snow said Tigris’s tiger face was too ugly and fired her from being a stylist, blah blah. Hurtful words seriously suck, and losing your job because of physical discrimination is obviously appalling, but come on now. Do we not have slightly bigger reasons to hate Snow, like, oh, he condemns around a couple dozen children to die every single year? Not to mention, I misunderstood that expository line and thought that Tiger Lady’s tiger face was some kind of ridiculously overelaborate punishment for being ugly. (In my defense, it’s pretty rushed exposition, and I’m not convinced Snow wouldn’t do something like that.)
15. Finally, about the ending:
A. I like that Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch all survive and return to the abandoned remains of District 12. That really appeals to me for some reason.
B. I should have known that Finnick would have successfully impregnated his new bride before heroically dying. Tragic death, after all, isn’t really so bad, so long as someone had a baby! Excuse me while I go throw up all over this boring trope.
C. The scene with Peeta and Katniss in bed is really a very lovely ending. It’s cute because it’s them. It’s a callback to earlier films. It’s a reminder that their trauma isn’t over, even if the Hunger Games are. (Peeta’s still asking what’s real, Katniss is still unable to sleep, etc.) I really, really like this scene, and I was all prepared to say, “Damn, that’s a pretty solid conclusion . . .”
D. . . .but proving that no one’s learned anything from Harry Potter OR Lord of the Rings, the movie fades out and come back to the Real Ending, where Peeta and Katniss are supposedly years older (Peeta has worse hair, which I guess is a sign of aging?) and are playing with their kids. And admittedly, the kids are pretty cute. (They’re played by Jennifer Lawrence’s nephews, which I presume is the only reason that one of them isn’t named Primrose? I’m just guessing here; I obviously haven’t read the book.)
But come on, who NEEDS this? That last scene was so perfect, and for Christ’s sake, you can have a happy ending without babies, guys. Really, it can happen. This just feels tacked on and cliché.
When I eventually buy this movie, I’m just going to stop it forty-five seconds from the end.
Something of a mixed bag. Some surprising twists. Some interesting plot developments. Flawed pacing, though, and some unnecessary silliness. As a conclusion, it works really well for me in some respects and falls down hard in others. I definitely should get to writing that Missing Scene/Fix-It fanfiction.
You know, I always say Jennifer Lawrence here, and she’s still great, but I’m going to give it to Josh Hutcherson this time around. Peeta’s role is more challenging than it’s been in previous films, and I like what he does with it. Jena Malone would also be a serious contender if she had a little more screen time.
War does terrible things to people.
Revenge isn’t the way.
Nothing good happens to siblings.
Peeta rules, Gale drools.
Happy endings aren’t happy at all if babies aren’t involved.