Released on November 20th, 2015, I am far overdue in writing a review about this movie. I almost trashed it from the back burner completely, but I figured I had better write it eventually, because I wrote reviews about the other three films, and I felt I had to “complete the set”. The problem is, I just wasn’t as excited about this film as I was the others, and I’m not entirely sure why. With this review, I hope to break it down and figure out why this movie fell flat for me.
In my review of Mockingjay, Part 1, I wrote about how I thought the third story was underrated:
With the Hunger Games series, I see students get excited for the first one, even more enthusiastic for the second one, and the only way to describe their reactions to the third one is, well, lackluster. I suppose it’s because the third Hunger Games doesn’t even feature the Hunger Games. I suppose it’s because Katniss doesn’t really engage in much open combat in the book, like she did in the previous two. I suppose it’s because the major conflict is political.
I went on to talk about how fascinating the political stuff is to me, and about how happy I was to see a Katniss who is able to show her open defiance against the Capitol and against President Snow. All of these things are still true.
However, I guess it comes down to the fact that I don’t know whether two films were absolutely necessary. Splitting into two films meant that filmmakers could include more content from the book, and as a fan of the book, I appreciated that. But one of my favorite pastimes after seeing a movie is discussing with other fans (and writing, here) the differences between the book and its film adaptation: what was cut, what was changed, what was better (hey, it happens), what was worse. With Mockingjay, Part 2, everything in the film was, well, predicable. I knew exactly what was going to happen, because this movie didn’t change anything from the book (that I noticed). Everything looked exactly how I pictured it. Nothing surprised me. And yet, I would be absolutely on board with a Harry Potter television series that adapted the novels without any cuts whatsoever, so maybe this isn’t the reason why Mockingjay, Part 2 fell flat for me.
Maybe the cast is the reason. I mean, don’t get me wrong. The cast is still all kinds of awesome. I wrote about Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, and Stanley Tucci specifically in the previous movie’s review. How incredible their performances were. How strong they were as actors. But, again, there weren’t any huge surprises for me either. I suppose it’s because this movie didn’t introduce any new characters, so I can’t comment on newcomer “so-and-so”. A casualty of the split movies, I guess. But, I will comment on a few performances:
Josh Hutcherson didn’t make my list the last time, but he was absolutely terrifying to me in the beginning of the movie, and continued to produce throughout the film. He may have never been nominated for an Academy Award like the others that I mentioned, but he delivers just as well as the others. Elizabeth Banks is always wonderful, even though we didn’t get to see her that much in this film. And then there’s Natalie Dormer, who gives a great performance, along with her Game of Thrones colleague, Gwendoline Christie, who had a small, but important, role.
And then there’s Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who left us all too soon. That scene towards the end between Woody Harrelson and Jennifer Lawrence, where he reads a letter from Heavensbee, was so poignant, because I knew that that scene was supposed to have been filmed between Jennifer and Phillip, and yet, I think that it was more meaningful with Woody instead. They came full circle as characters. The last that we see Phillip is the knowing look on his face after Katniss assassinates President Coin (Julianne Moore really delivers during this scene as well).
No review of mine would be complete without a comment about the music. James Newton Howard is always great. However, I didn’t notice any striking new themes. There were no standout songs in this film, like “The Hanging Tree” from the previous film, which was such a showstopper for me. Again, I wasn’t wowed.
I hate to talk politics, but this film is all about politics, so I find I can’t avoid it. I suppose this is why I avoided writing this review as long as I did, and after our own presidential election, I find writing this even harder.
I think the reason I didn’t care for this film as much as the others comes down to a combination of the above, plus one more thing: I am simply exhausted with dystopian fiction. I don’t think I’m the only one. There were a few years where everyone was riding the bandwagon that Hunger Games started. We had our Divergent series, which lost popularity as time went on (though I think that has more to do with the quality of the original stories going down with each book, or so I’ve heard, because I have not read them). We had our Maze Runner series—the third movie was delayed due to Dylan O’Brien’s injuries on set, but you can’t deny there’s something to the second movie making less at the box office than the first movie did (again, I haven’t read these books). Even The Giver, the dystopian novel that started it all, was released as a movie during this period, riding the wave of so many other dystopian movies.
But did I go see The Giver, even though I loved the book? No. Why? Because I’m pretty well dystopia-ed out.
Why? Again, I think, especially now, it has a little to do with our current political climate. I’m a Democrat. I voted for Hillary, and despite her flaws, I hoped that she would be our first female president. I guess I can see a little bit of Coin in Clinton and a little bit of Snow in Trump. Coin wants to do good, and she appears benevolent on the surface, but beneath that exterior, you can see it in her eyes: she wants power. With Snow, he’s just blatantly evil, but he’s a smooth talker. He knows just what to say and how to say it to rally a crowd. He doesn’t believe in equality in the slightest. He supports the Capitol’s way of life, and if that means pushing the other Districts down, down, down, then so be it.
And that’s why I can’t handle dystopian fiction anymore. It scares me. It’s too close to real life.
What are your thoughts? Did you like the movie? Does dystopia scare you?