Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 Review

We are now less than a month away until Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters. My excitement for this movie hit fever level quite some time ago, which is probably a bad thing in the sense that I have so much that I have to do right now that I'm having a hard time focusing because all I can think about is Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars. This has gotten so bad recently that I almost forgot that there's another movie that I've also been super excited for. There's not a whole lot of these young adult crazes that I have been wrapped up in recently, but the Hunger Games is definitely one of them. And the grand finale of this series is here! Yet I almost forgot about it? Seriously, I was sitting on my couch earlier this week when a commercial played advertising that this movie comes out this weekend and it caught me off guard. That's this weekend? Oh yeah. Cool! What a great surprise! Now that I've seen the movie, this chapter in my life is officially closed and so it's time to give you my final word on this great series.

It was just under three years ago when I finished reading the books for the first time. Earlier that year the first movie came out and I loved that so much that I knew I had to read the books. When I finally got around to starting them, it didn't take long before I was finished. Catching Fire was easily my favorite book of the three as a finished that one in just day, which for me is saying something because I'm a slow reader. I had my reservations about Mockingjay, but overall I think I liked it a lot more than many people. Yes, the first three-fourths of the book was rather slow and tedious, but I actually really loved the very end. This wasn't a very popular opinion at the time. Most people that I had heard from didn't like how the series ended. Because of this, I did a rare thing and I wrote a book review for each book, mainly because I wanted to get my thoughts out on the ending. If you want to read that book review of Mockingjay, you can do so by clicking that link right there. In that review I gave some thoughts on how I think the movie version of Mockingjay should go. Now it's time to compare and contrast. That book review has many spoilers, so proceed with caution. This movie review will not have spoilers, but I am going to dance around the line a bit in order to hit some of the main points because sadly this is the worst movie of the series and I want to do a good job of explaining why.

After finishing Mockingjay, I was worried along with everyone else at the idea of splitting the movie into two parts. I know that Harry Potter and Twilight both did that, but that doesn't mean everyone has to. Mockingjay especially doesn't really lend itself that well to two movies. As readers, we are stuck in Katniss' head. This works really well in the first two books as the conflict focuses solely on Katniss as she is trying to survive the Hunger Games twice in two straight years. But in the third book it holds us back because the rebellion decide to use Katniss as a symbol for their rebellion and not a leader for their rebellion. In terms of their military strategy, this makes sense. It's more realistic. Katniss is good with a bow and got lucky in the arena, but she's not a trained soldier. She's a 17-year-old girl who is very emotionally unstable after being through two traumatic experiences in the arena. Because of this, the leaders of the rebellion decide to keep Katniss safe and not send her out into the thick of the action. This is all fine and dandy until you realize that we are stuck in Katniss' head and thus are also held back from the action. In the first two books, we see all the action firsthand because the action is in the arena. In the final book, we get all the action from secondhand sources. People tell Katniss what is happening. Even when she finally sneaks out to the capital, she's not on the front lines.

In my opinion, there was a way to fix this for the movie. We needed to escape from Katniss' perspective on occasion and follow the action. Show us this rebellion. Mockingjay Part 1 actually did a decent job at this. Yes, we still spent most of the movie with Katniss, but there were a few times where we went where the action was instead of staying with Katniss. I was hoping we'd do even more of this in the finale, but we actually did less of it. In fact, this follows the book almost to a t. Normally that's a good thing. In this case, I feel it held the movie back, especially since they decided to stretch that whole second half of the book into one movie. Remember how I said that three-fourths of the book was really slow and boring? Yep. That means when you split into two, you still have the first half of the second part as slow and boring. I was actually really surprised with Part 1. Nothing really happens in that movie, yet they did a fantastic job at keeping it interesting anyways. You can have a slow movie that is still good if you proceed with caution and do things right. Part 1 did just that. I know not everyone felt this way, but I was fully invested in the whole movie. Thus I had no reason to believe that Part 2 would be any different. Unfortunately it's just slow. We have more time to spend with our characters as nothing is happening, but in this instance it is more tedious.

Finally, after a good portion of the movie doing almost nothing, we finally get to the point where our little group of protagonists is sneaking through the capital with the idea of finding and killing President Snow. This is where things are supposed to get really intense and emotional. In reading this section, I was often literally on the edge of my seat and there were several crazy twists that had me dumbfounded and devastated. When I finished, I sat there for about an hour just reflecting and pondering over what I just read. This book does not have a happy, fairy-tale ending. But yet there were still powerful lessons to be learned, which is often the case in real life. Just think about any conflict or war. Often people who participate in war will tell you that there are no winners. Just survivors. Loved ones are lost. Emotions are unstable. PTSD often kicks in afterwards. Even those who "win" the war can have their lives completely ruined afterwards. Yet lessons can still be learned. People can pick themselves back up and look for the positive aspects of life. They can learn that good can come from whatever situation if they are truly looking for it. Without diving into specifics, these are exactly the emotions that are present at the end of the book. With how good the movies were doing up to this point, I totally expected them to pull at all my heartstrings with this final chapter and have me almost in tears. It didn't quite happen like that.

It is possible that the movie was less emotional for me because I already knew what was going to happen. I don't want to completely discount that. However, there have been many movies that I've seen based on books that I've read or events that happened in real life that I knew about that still effected me emotionally even though I knew the outcome, so I highly doubt that me knowing what was going to happen held me back from enjoying this movie. Instead I feel that this movie simply isn't as emotional as it could've been. Without giving anything away for those who haven't read the book, the movies did a really good job at building up certain characters in previous installments. Due to certain events happening in this movie, these certain characters needed to continue to be at the forefront of the film in order for the movie to have the full emotional impact, but instead they felt like an afterthought and so when emotional things were supposed to happen, the emotion didn't hit me like it should've. If you've read the book, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you haven't, I hope I was vague enough to confuse you.

The other emotional aspect of the book was Katniss herself. She was broken to start the book. After what happens in this grim finale, she is even more broken. In fact, she is so broken and messed up emotionally that she's suicidal at the end of the book and it was painful being inside her head as a reader. I was looking forward to Jennifer Lawrence pulling this off in the movie because that girl is a dang good actress. But the emotion wasn't there. Her character was a lot more subdued and way too calm and collected. Sure there was a scene or two where she flipped out, but there weren't nearly enough of those scenes. Thus Katniss sadly becomes a fairly boring character. You don't feel bad for her because of what she's gone through because it feels like she is just going through the motions. This is really disappointing when you compare this to how things happen with Katniss in the book. With Jennifer Lawrence having become an Oscar darling in the last few years, the thought actually crossed my mind before seeing this movie that perhaps she could get consideration for this movie given how emotional Katniss was supposed to be in this. But nope. Not even close. I don't blame Jennifer. I blame the writing.

Speaking of performances, there were plenty of decent performances in this movie, but there was actually one specific performance that stood out from the rest. This was supposed to be Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. It wasn't. It was Josh Hutcherson as Peeta who stole the show. If you are reading this review, I'm assuming that means you have at least seen Mockingjay Part 1 and thus you know Peeta is pretty messed up after being taken prisoner by the capital. Not only have they erased a lot of his memories, but they've added new memories in order to try to make him believe that Katniss is actually the enemy. This makes the relationship between Katniss and Peeta really interesting. Granted, the relationship could've been a lot better if Katniss had been an emotional and broken character, but Peeta's half of it was perfect. Josh Hutcherson really nails it as someone who hates Katniss at the beginning of the movie, but starts to become a really troubled individual once he realizes that his memories have been tampered with. He's the one who I think gives the Oscar-worthy performance. I use the term "Oscar-worthy" in this instance because I know that he has no shot at a nomination. The Academy always does what I think is a dumb thing by ignoring the major blockbusters when it comes to the big awards. But nevertheless, Josh Hutcherson totally steals the show.

When push comes to shove, my final conclusion is that Mockingjay should've been only one movie. They followed a trend with this franchise of splitting the final book into two movies and in this instance it backfired. The first part of this two part finale did a good job, but the second part left much to be desired for. The slow parts didn't do a good job of building up to the finale. They were just boring. In the book, we were prevented from witnessing the action, which was the biggest fault of the final book. The movie had the potential to actually show us the action. But they didn't. They hid it from us and we were told what happened, just like in the book. The action we got from our group of heroes was entertaining, but it lacked emotional power, which is what this movie needed. Most of all, Katniss is a boring character and lacks emotion, which is really disappointing because her emotion at the end of the book is what made the book great, but in this it's almost non-existent. I was excited about this movie. I thought that this might end up as the best of the four. But it ended up as the worst of the bunch. What a sad conclusion to a great franchise. My grade for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 a 6/10.

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