Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

HG3-01

The good news is, it’s over. The bad news is, you’ve got to endure two and a half numbing hours to get to the finish line. (My advice: Screw the finish line. Life is too short for this.)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (or Hunger Games 3.5, if you like) gives us the second half, more or less, of the third novel in this trilogy, and it hews closely to the source material. It’s interesting that, while the original novel was not exactly thrilling literature, the story’s flaws were not nearly so evident on the page as they are on the screen.

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks
Review: 2 stars (of five)

Katniss Everdeen is the worst action-movie heroine I can think of. She is constantly mopey and shellshocked. And while it makes great story sense that she’s be traumatized well past standard definitions of PTSD, an emotionally vacant character who cannot communicate and who kind of lets events push her around does not make for good viewing.

She’s turned into an empty propaganda figure–and she pretty much lets it happen (though with ulterior motives of leading her friends to almost certain death to seek her own personal revenge.  Cool!)

Surrounding her with two conflicting love interests who are every bit as tedious, and then throwing them all into a ludicrous, strangely lifeless gauntlet of war just sinks the movie beyond hope of rescue.
So that’s out of the way: The characters are all tiresome, the story is dull despite the constant action/violence. HG3-03Jennifer Lawrence does a good job of playing the character as written (as a turnip, that is to say), but who wants to watch that? Great. Let’s talk about the fact that she’s a villain, not a hero.
Spoilers if you haven’t read the novel. At the end of the story, Katniss assassinates a politician whom she could oppose through legitimate means, but she’s too lazy or tired, I guess, so she just puts an arrow through the woman’s heart on live TV. This is how the character was written in the novel, too:

  • Having defeated Evil President Snow, Rebel President Coin takes power.
  • Coin proposes reinstituting the terrible Hunger Games, but gives Katniss and friends a vote to prevent
  • it. Rather than vote it down, Katniss approves the plan, ostensibly so she can have the right to be Snow’s executioner.
  • At the execution, on live TV, rather than shoot Snow, Katniss shoots Coin.

HG3-02Consider: Katniss is the most famous and beloved figure of the revolution. If Coin (the always excellent Julianne Moore) is a corrupt leader (and she surely is), Katniss has a strong platform from which to oppose her–and she’s the center of a live broadcast that no one’s gonna miss, so she has the opportunity to speak, to live up to her platitudes throughout the film in opposition to unnecessary bloodshed. And the movie has shown us that there are others in leadership positions with the integrity to join Katniss. The process is open to Katniss as to no one else in this world. Instead, she commits murder.

So now Katniss is not only a mopey and mostly ineffectual hero who seems to stumble into whatever she accomplishes (and in this film, she accomplishes absolutely nothing but that one brutal killing), she’s also a vigilante who gets away with murder.

Best 2 Moments

This film is a two-hour slog, but there are exactly two things to watch for, if you must see it:

  • Donald Sutherland, as President Snow, is confronted by Katniss in a rose-filled hothouse after his defeat. His job in this scene is to deliver a blast of exposition, but he still acts the hell out of it and is a delight to watch.
  • Elizabeth Banks, as the ludicrous Effie, gets maybe four lines in this film. But her last scene, her goodbye to Katniss and Woody Harrelson’s Hamish, is a nice as her perpetual mask of vacuity slips, emotion escapes, and then she recomposes herself. It ain’t gonna keep Oscar voters up at night, but it’s a very nice moment..
  • Bonus:  Michelle Forbes as a military hard ass.  It’s not a great role, but any Michelle Forbes is good Michelle Forbes.

Otherwise, it’s a dull gray war story, with dull gray characters, presented in dull gray action sequences.

The getting away with it is most interesting: In the novel, she is tried (off the page) and declared not guilty by reason of insanity. That is, at least, a kind of justice. It’s easy to believe Katniss has that level of damage, and because there is a legitimate legal process, she escapes incarceration in a way that is legal and does not completely absolve her. In the film, we’re merely told that, later, when it’s politically expedient, Coin’s successor will pardon Katniss. Swept under the rug in a backroom deal.

I suspect this was to keep the movie from running a full three hours—one line of dialogue resolves the issue, as opposed to setting up any kind of trial scene. But it just makes the matter worse, makes Katniss’s evil action more glaring.

Then there’s the love triangle. The point of a love triangle is that the person facing a choice … makes a choice. In this film, pouty pretty boy Gayle says, “She’ll pick the one she can’t live without.” and tells rival, sulky/brainwashed Peeta, “You have to survive—otherwise I’ll have no chance with her.” Yet in fact, Gayle disqualifies himself by being accidentally or deliberately complicit in Coin’s war crimes (rejection by Katniss is his only punishment, it seems). Katniss chooses no one—she goes to her old home to live essentially alone, and then Peeta just … shows up. She lets him stay. Eventually, she gets into bed with him, lays there, and when asked, lifelessly admits to feeling love for him. Since he asked, and all.

Cut to a few years later, they have kids, and she tells us her secret for surviving the horror: To list all the acts of kindness she can remember ever seeing. In a film whose main story was ostensibly about freedom from tyranny, and whose B story was about love, that’s a really weak kicker.

This story is empty.  There’s no heroism, no morality, no love. Oh, there are characters who love, and moments of heroism, but as Katniss’ story, this movie offers nothing.  You should offer it nothing in return.

HG3-04