Editor’s Notes: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 will be released on its respective home video format on March 22nd.
After three years and four major motion pictures, the Hunger Games series concludes with Mockingjay, Part 2 (Lionsgate) the final confrontation between the rebels, led by Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), and the Capitol, represented by the unctuous President Snow (Donald Sutherland). A series that should have ended on a spectacular note takes its final bow in an overlong, talky production surprisingly stingy with action.
To milk extra box-office dollars from the cash-cow franchise, the producers split the last book of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy into two films. The resultant padding makes for slow, draggy sections and a loss of pace as the freedom fighters attempt to get through the heavily fortified streets on the way to an assault on the Capitol. It’s unfortunate that those who eagerly anticipated the finale since 2012 have to endure such a disappointing, emotionally barren farewell.
Spreading many of the trilogy’s surprising revelations over the two movies dilutes their impact. And since Mockingjay, Part 2 picks up exactly where Part 1 ended, there is no recap, leaving viewers a bit adrift until they finally get back on the narrative track. Perhaps the best idea is to watch Part 1 right before seeing the new movie, provided you have 4 1/2 hours to spare. Had Mockingjay been a single film, it would have been more coherent, quicker-paced, more exciting, and more satisfying.
This trend is common to other Hollywood franchises. The Harry Potter producers split the final book of the series into two films and Peter Jackson extended The Hobbit into three extremely long movies. More is not always better.
Many of the characters from previous installments of the series are back, but in such small roles they are more cameos than true supporting performances. Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman), and Jeffrey Wright (Beetee) have little to do or add to the plot. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee) has a slightly larger role.
There are a few memorable sequences, particularly as Katniss and company converge on the Capitol street by street, ever wary of booby traps involving massive flamethrowers, machine guns, and a flood of oil geared to drown the rebels in ooze. An underground battle between Capitol defenders and the rebels features cannibalistic creatures who thrive in darkness and attack in hordes.
Director Francis Lawrence, who also directed Mockingjay, Part 1, can’t overcome one of the series’ major shortcomings — two bland leading men. Maybe Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are intended to be uninteresting, since Katniss is the central character and we’re seeing the story unfold through her eyes. But her fascination with these two drab guys never rings true. The script doesn’t give Hemsworth and Hutchinson much to work with. Peeta is the more complex of the two, but his brainwashing by the Capitol and the potential danger to Katniss he poses should have resonated far more than it does.
Ms. Lawrence, who became a true movie star when she assumed the role of Katniss Everdeen, comes off better than in Part 1, when she seemed to always be watching the action from bunkers rather than participating. Here, she’s back in warrior mode, but never quite conveys the obsessive dedication of Katniss’ quest.
Scenes of violence are kept well within the boundaries of the film’s PG-13 rating, cutting away before the camera lingers too long on the carnage.
Bonus extras on the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include audio commentary with director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson; “The Hunger Games: A Photographic Journey;” “Cinna’s Sketchbook: Secrets of the Mockingly Armor;” “Panem on Display: The Humger Games - The Exhibition;” and an eight-part documentary chronicling the making of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2.”