Never mind Peeta. Someone seems to have brainwashed The Hunger Games.
After a promising start, one rooted in the sort of trauma that has been a distinctive marker of the franchise, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 progressively forgets almost everything that made this such an exciting science-fiction series. Thematic subtext gets turned into banal conversation; clever deconstructions of action-movie expectations give way to routine set pieces; an emphasis on remorse and loss is undercut by cheap, sudden death. What’s more, our defiantly un-girly heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) becomes a figure of traditional, feminine domesticity. Hunger Games, I don’t know you anymore.
What’s strange is that the creative team remains largely intact, including screenwriters Peter Craig and Danny Strong, adapting Suzanne Collins’ novel; director Francis Lawrence, returning for his third film in the series; and Lawrence herself, who has always been the franchise’s firm foundation but is asked to carry too much of a load here, especially when the film continually undermines her well-established character.
The movie’s problems are largely structural, and most likely rooted in good intentions. Rather than give us a routine, victorious military conclusion, Mockingjay – Part 2 spends its final section exploring the aftermath of revolution. There is a commitment to trauma here that — while poorly motivated and clumsily handled — at least recalls the sensitivity that was one of the franchise’s best qualities. And it echoes other moments – when a wedding jig gives way to a mournful hug; when Katniss disguises herself as a Capitol refugee and realizes that suffering is universal — that showcase the franchise at its best.
So consider Mockingjay – Part 2 a disappointment, something that only satisfies on the strength of its predecessors. And bring me the head of whoever decided to put Katniss in that awful, subservient dress.