THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2
There was a rather funny video doing the rounds Watch as These People Struggle to Remember What Happened in The Hunger Games. Leaving aside whatever it might say about either how vapid popular culture is, this somewhat mirrors ones own confusion as Mockingjay Part 2 starts. Much of the early part of the film feels like a flurry of characters who were often little more than walks-ons in the previous films being rushed past one (part of this would seem a determination to feature an appearance from everybody still alive because Mockingjay Part 2 is the finale of the series). More to the point, the series has gone from a fairly straightforward original which was essentially an action piece about a teenager having to fight for her life to a series of sequels that escalated the basics into densely plotted political scenarios and with a far more sombre focus on Katnisss internal journey. As now seems de digeur for any series aimed at Young Adult audience, the final book has been split into two parts (a convenient excuse that also allows the studio to rake in another half-billion or so dollars at the box-office). Like the Twilight series, you cannot help but feel that much of this is a story that in the normal course of events would take place in one to two films being extruded beyond its natural length.
That said, once Mockingjay Part 2 gets to the core of its drama, it emerges rather well, certainly better than Mockingjay Part 1, which felt more like filler to get to the big climax than anything else. During the middle two-thirds of the film, the naive politics that have driven the rest of the sequels are set aside and everything stripped down to a tight and effective military sortie drama. The scenes racing through the streets and tunnels, fighting off death traps and mutant creatures have a gritty edge that one wishes had made its way into the original Hunger Games. (It now starts to seem anodyne looking back on it it shied away from the idea of its heroine killing people, while the film here is brutal and unsentimental in killing off many of those around Katniss and moreover having her actively kill others). On the other hand, you do question the credibility of some of the action sequences like the turning of just about every street corner of The Capitol into a series of giant death traps. You keep wondering how the populace manage to navigates around these to do its daily business?
That brings one to the other major problem with Mockingjay Part 2 or at least the way it draws the entire saga to a close. We began with a not terribly well sketched out picture of a future, which started to become interesting in its political machinations throughout Catching Fire. For the most part here, the focus is less on the politics than warfare action. That said, the film reaches a strangely irresolute ending. [PLOT SPOILERS]. The entire thrust of this film is about Katniss on a single-minded mission to kill President Snow. Only when it comes to the climactic finale, rather than fulfil her stated and then officially appointed task to shoot Snow, Katniss turns her arrow around and instead shoots down Julianne Moores Coin. It is a finale that seems to go oddly sideways. I get that Suzanne Moore is doing an equivalent of the ending of George Orwells Animal Farm (1945) on us see the film version Animal Farm (1954) and saying that any revolution brings just as bad a regime with it. It also seems to be an ending that offers Snow a good old Hollywood redemption and seems to say because he is a nice friendly grandfather type who promised never to lie to Katniss then he should be forgiven and because Coin authorised a few ruthless acts (that certainly seem bad but not quite as severe as Snow bombing Katnisss home district to the ground and brainwashing Peta against her) then he gets a pass and she doesnt. It throws the series thrust of sympathies off in a big way.
The other complaint is also that the film seems to fall into the common mistake that societies and revolutions are led by charismatic individuals. They certainly are but these are also backed by pyramids of power structure and hierarchies of appointment. That is to say, just killing the head of a state or movement is not something that automatically vanquishes the ideals that the rest of the people below them were fighting for if it was the case then al-Qaeda would surely have ended with the killing of Osama bin Laden. This is part of the essential Mary Sue fantasy that most of these Young Adult films play into a term derived from fanfic where an ordinary seeming heroine (or hero) ie. stand-in for the author has an irresistible quality that makes them desired by people of great stature or else they come into possession of amazing powers. You can see this play out in the Twilight series and Fifty Shades of Gray (2015) at its worst, while not even Harry Potter is immune with its saga of the ordinary kid in possession of amazing destiny and incredible powers. Katniss Everdeen has become a slightly more complex character but there is very much the sense of the individual being able to singlehandedly topple corrupt regimes solely through her resolute moral purpose and honesty.