February 8, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: Viewers starved for substance in newest ‘Hunger Games’

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2"

Directed by Francis Lawrence

The iconic Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her propaganda-filming squad walk through the deserted streets of the tyrannical Capitol, complete with obviously computer-generated backgrounds glowing red with fire and smoke. Countless “pods,” spectacularly gruesome booby traps, line every square inch of the battlefield. The group reaches an enclosed apartment complex, where one unlucky squad member triggers a pressure plate. Within seconds, the complex is sealed in and a deadly deluge of black tar sends everyone into a frenzy to get to higher ground. This is no ordinary tar, though. The first extra to fall in is strung up and impaled in a horrendous inky web in the sky. Equally as terrible is the knowledge that the squad has just alerted hordes of Capitol soldiers to its whereabouts. This scene, one of the few engaging moments of the movie, serves a dual purpose: to heighten the tension of Katniss’ fight against the leaders of the fictional nation of Panem, and to generate footage enticing enough to be cobbled into a trailer for the final installment of the internationally known “The Hunger Games” franchise, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2,” directed by Francis Lawrence.

Based off the dystopian, young adult novel trilogy by Suzanne Collins, “The Hunger Games” follows Katniss through her experience as a tribute in two separate massively televised, gladiatorial deathmatches known as the Hunger Games, for which she volunteers in place of her younger sister Primrose (Willow Shields). Katniss lives in the fictional dystopia of Panem, the former North America, divided into 12 districts under the oppressive rule of the elite and totalitarian Capitol led by President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Through her tribulations in the games, Katniss becomes the Mockingjay, a symbol used to spearhead a civil insurgency led by the underground District 13 and President Coin (Julianne Moore), against the Capitol. Along the way, Katniss begins a romantic relationship with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) that jeopardizes her somewhat romantic relationship with her lifelong friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth).

Continuing the trend of splitting final series films into two parts, Part 2 is on the weaker end of a weak plot that never should have been divided in the first place. Ironically, much of the rebellion itself is reduced to a bit part in lieu of characters sitting around and talking to fill up screen time. The similarities to Part 1’s lack of substance show all-too-well in Part 2, albeit Part 2 shows a few more suspenseful fight sequences and more screen time taken up by Katniss actually shooting arrows than its prequel.

For all its production grandeur and the well-done performances by its ensemble cast, Part 2 could have spared a few of its more unnecessary scenes such as Finnick’s wedding or President Snow’s Round Table, in favor of bringing more dynamic scenes to the film’s most crucial conflicts of power struggles and showing the difference between real and fake relationships. Instead, the mentally hijacked Peeta spends more time telling, not showing, the audience how “unstable” he is, and the audience is supposed to take his word for it.
Not completely bereft of suspense and conflict but not utilizing it wholesomely either, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” does a well-enough job of making up for Part 1’s cinematic drop since “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” While the pacing is clunky, it concludes the series as well as a standard “Final-Book-Split-Into-Two-Parter” can.