Blah blah, spoiler alert, blah blah, don’t read if you haven’t read Mockingjay, it’s been out for years, get your life together.
The time has come to complete my trilogy of Hunger Games film reviews. But Courtney, you may be saying, shouldn’t it be a quartet? Yes, but somebody didn’t like her review of Mockingjay: Part 1 enough to post it. So like the book series that spawned them, my reviews come in a trio.
The whole trend of splitting final book installments into two films is fairly odious to me. You have examples like Breaking Dawn, which would have barely had enough material for one film to begin with. Then you have Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows, which actually had enough material and produced two decent films. Mockingjay probably falls somewhere in the middle. When you turn the second half of a book into its own movie, the result tends to be action heavy to the point of excess, but for The Hunger Games it works out.
Mockingjay offers some new adaptation challenges for the filmmakers. The first part of the book takes place in District 13, which is entirely underground. Ah, nothing says great cinematography like a complete lack of natural light and space. Part 1 suffered more on this front and, despite the honeycomb sets that were more interesting than the District 13 of my imagination, probably led to my impression that the film was a bit drab. Part 2 has the advantage of new settings as the rebellion advances on the Capitol. There are some great set pieces like the Capitol apartment courtyard where a big action sequence takes place.
Mockingjay: Part 2 has another advantage besides a change of setting. Katniss and Peeta are back in the same place, allowing the central relationship of the series to do the emotional heavy-lifting. Liam Hemsworth may be easy on the eyes, but I’m Team Peeta 4ever. If anything, I could have done with a little more emotional development, but the actors make good with what they have. (Can anyone dispute the centrality of Katniss and Peeta? The relationship between Katniss and Prim is a catalyst for story action, but Prim gets minimal page time and even less screen time.)
The tipping point that turned me into an absolute fan of this movie was the ending. With no easy triumphant conclusion, it was a tricky balance for the filmmakers’ to achieve, but they nailed it. By the time Katniss makes her surprise decision at the execution, her actions feel justified and her reasoning clear to the viewer. The return to District 12 has room for mourning and cautious hope. Can Jennifer Lawrence make us cry by screaming at a cat? Oh yes, she can. And I would likely have thrown a small tantrum if they hadn’t included one of my favorite romantic exchanges in young adult lit. Real or not real? Real.