It is very daunting for me to actually criticize this film. The Hunger Games franchise has such a rabid fanbase, that praise it beyond belief. That isn’t without reason – the Hunger Games are a unique and very interesting story, and the films stick to the tone of the books perfectly. The only problem is that I am not the biggest fan of the films. I recognize their popularity, and their unique spirit, but they’re just not for me. The second film, Catching Fire, was a teen film masterpiece, but the third film, Mockingjay: Part 1, was an enormous disappointment, and Mockingjay: Part 2 was a monumental improvement, it still left a lot to be desired.
Pacing is an important part of any film, and when your film is the final chapter of a hugely successful action franchise, you’re going to want to use all the time at your disposal to tell that story. What I am getting at here is that The Hunger Games – Mockingjay: Part 2 is too long. It is only over two hours long, but it felt like an eternity, because the pacing was really very poor. The first half of the film drags like none other I have ever seen before. It is odd, because a film having odd pacing is not rare in any way, but it is usually the second and third acts that drag. This film has an incredibly slow first half, and I was ready to doze off, honestly. It was just dark, moody fighting that lacked any real depth, and I just wasn’t feeling that this film was worth my time. A film that seems to go to extraordinary efforts to appear as depressing as this has to be meaningful, and honestly the first part of this film was horribly slow and had nothing to say. But yet, there was hope!
The second half of the film was wonderful. It was snappy, fast, exciting and exhilirating. It almost appeared that they came to their senses that the film they were making up until this point was just too grim and alienating. However, as much as I enjoyed the second half of this film – which, to be clear, wasn’t any more than just faint interest with very little chance of me writing the film off – just proves that the final chapter of this film series was the most daunting and messy of them all. It was not at all a great film, and it could’ve been tremendously brilliant, if only some more focus was put into this film.
However, let’s be a bit more positive. This film had a really good cast, and Jennifer Lawrence continues to grow as an actress, and even though she is safe in this role, she still shows new facets to her acting. The same can’t be said to the rest of her young co-stars. Josh Hutcherson seems like a nice guy, but his acting in The Hunger Games has always been very weak, and here, he does try, but just fails to reach the peak of acting he is aiming for. However, like I said, he put in an effort. The same can’t be said for Liam Hemsworth, who really just tries to be a mysterious pretty face here. Jena Malone, however, is absolutely fascinating and I wanted to see a lot more of her. The best parts of this film came in the veterans in the cast. Julianne Moore is an exceptional actress who plays a great villain here. Donald Sutherland has always been an amazing actor, and I am so glad he made the decision to star in the Hunger Games films, because they have given the great actor some much needed visibility in a much more diverse audience. Both he and Moore are absolutely tremendous in this film, and I could watch a film just with their characters. It would be a far more interesting film that this, I assure you.
However, there is one person in the cast that I really need to mention, because it seems wrong not to. It struck me, entering this film, that this film will be the last time we ever see Philip Seymour Hoffman acting. This was the film he was filming at the time of his death, and that cast an enormous shadow on this film, and you can feel his presence missing in the second half of the film. His character wasn’t particularly interesting, and to be honest, if he didn’t die, this would just be another credit on his filmography. But there is something bittersweet about this film being his final performance. I have mentioned this several times, but along with Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman was probably my favorite actor of all time, so a part of me watching this film could be seen as a way of finally bidding farewell to one of the greatest actors of his generation. It may not be his greatest performance, but it is his final one, and in a way you appreciate every moment he is on screen, because the shadow of his death looms ominously, and you don’t want the film to end, because then in a way, when the film is done…then Phil is gone as well. Its a weird, very lame concept I am bringing up here, but this at least made the film worthwhile to watch – to see the great actor in action, for one last time, nearly two years after he left us.
I don’t think this film was anything special. I have always known there has been passion for it, but it seems that the passion doesn’t come close to that of Harry Potter or…alas, Twilight. The disappointing box office numbers makes me think fewer and fewer people actually cared about The Hunger Games, and that while it is enjoyed by many people, there doesn’t seem to be any enthusiasm for casual fans or viewers to rush out and see it, because there’s always “next week”, or rental. I know there was no enthusiasm for me to rush out to see it, to be perfectly frank. But I did, and I wasn’t too impressed. Honestly, there was nothing here for me to be excited about. The Hunger Games is almost entirely humourless – I don’t believe there was a single moment of levity or humour in this film, which is never a great idea, because levity may not be vital, but it does help make the film more enjoyable, and this film doesn’t deal with a single real, serious topic, and there was infinite abilities to just make this film less grim. Its a petty complaint, but when you have a film that has absolutely no humour in it, it becomes very depressing.
In the end, I am somewhat relieved that I will never need to review a Hunger Games film again. I didn’t dislike any of them by any means, but their fanbases are rabid, and to the point where I feel forced to love the films, when it is nearly impossible. The Hunger Games won’t have be the cultural phenomenon that Twilight was (love it or hate it, those films have stirred more controversy and discussion than any other film series), nor will it be the generation-defining wonder that was Harry Potter. Luckily, these films were good enough to make money and not end any careers, but were not good enough for their stars to only be related to this film. Everyone will hopefully move onto better films, and will have The Hunger Games as simply an honorable element of their filmographies. I know I seem quite bitter about these films, but I really expected more, especially from the final film, which closed out a pleasant enough saga. It didn’t do it very well, but it did it well enough for it not to be too much of a problem. The Hunger Games will go down in history as a great film franchise, but not great films themselves, and that’s fine – there seems to be a quest for “the next Harry Potter“, but nothing will ever come close to that brilliance.
The Hunger Games – Mockingjay: Part 2 is strictly for fans of the previous films or the books. You will be eternally confused going in fresh, and it will probably make this film even more dire and grim, because you’ll just have no idea what’s going on (and the filmmakers don’t seem to worry too much about explaining or context either). But if you’re a fan, perhaps you’ll be satisfied. But I wasn’t satisfied, but I never said I was a fan either.