December Issue 2015

By | Movies | Published 4 years ago

Ever since the last Harry Potter book was split into two films, almost every other YA/fantasy series has been following suit. The four Twilight books were turned into five; the last book of the Divergent trilogy will be split into two and if you think it can’t get more cash-grabbing than that, recall Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, where one single book was split into three insufferable parts. All these are hardly artistic choices.

It’s surprising then that even Suzanne Collins’Hunger Games trilogy has gotten the same treatment. It’s surprising, because it’s the only YA series in recent memory that has felt at least a little bit more engaging, a little more original than its contemporaries. There is more focus here on themes such as class, gender and oppression. In short, the Hunger Games series has actual content, actual profundity, but the decision to make two films out of the last book is highly detrimental to a series that deserved a much stronger ending.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 pretty much takes off from where Part 1 ended. Jennifer Lawrence’s spectacular turn as Katniss Everdeen (a literary descendant of headstrong heroine Bathsheba Everdene, one wonders?) is really the highlight of this final instalment. She embarks on one last mission to kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland), the two-faced President of Panem, but along the way to the Capitol she will have to overcome all sorts of testing odds.

But between these odds are just too many passages of dialogue. Why does a film like this have to be so wordy? Because this last book has been split up into two parts, the pacing is just all over the place. For every exciting action piece, there are endless scenes of talking. In this film especially, there is an exceptionally well-executed sequence, where zombie-like creatures are after Katniss and co. It feels like something straight out of a claustrophobic horror film, with a video-game aesthetic so out of place that one wonders whether such a dull and slow film deserves such a great sequence at all.

However, one can’t fully dismiss Mockingjay — Part 2, which tries very hard to stay topical and teach its audience a thing or two about the world that we live in currently. Throughout the series, the films have been about the disparity between the rich and the poor and this film has something to say about the current refugee crisis in Europe. President Snow doesn’t care about refugees, the Capitol residents don’t care about refugees and by default, the narrative finds relevance in the real world.

Reading through my Newsline review of the first Hunger Games film, I wrote that the pacing is ‘somewhat uneven.’ I also wrote that Jennifer Lawrence ‘carries the film effortlessly and there hasn’t been such a strong performance by a central, female character in recent memory.’ I ended the review with the wish that ‘future instalments improve significantly.’ I quote these three things because it seems like not much has changed. The pacing is still uneven. Jennifer Lawrence has been terrific throughout the series; in fact, the entire supporting cast has been strong in general, be it Jena Malone, Natalie Dormer, or Philip Seymour Hofmann in his last appearance. The film could’ve done with tighter editing. However, despite its many flaws, one can’t totally be dismissive of Mockingjay — Part 2.

This review was originally published in Newsline’s December 2015 issue.

Schayan Riaz is a film critic based in Germany