Thursday, 24 December 2015
Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two (UK Cert 12A)
To nick a quote from everyone's favourite time-travelling physician, 'it's the end, but the moment has been prepared for'. And so we reach the end of The Hunger Games saga with Mockingjay: Part Two.
Picking up almost straight after the end of Part One, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has been traumatised by her attack by the unstable Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). However, the rebellion against the Capitol continues and Katniss continues to be the Mockingjay, the symbol of the rebellion. Starting with neutralising a threat in District 2, the rebels continue their march toward the Capitol to overthrow President Snow (Donald Sutherland), leading to Katniss' final confrontation with Snow...
It's a frustratingly inconsistent film. There are some great intimate character moments, for instance- the conversation between Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) about their respective love for Katniss; the wonderful showdown between Katniss and Snow in the greenhouse- but several of the action scenes are muddy and either really badly shot or really badly edited, making it difficult to see who's doing what to whom.
There's no scene that displays this more clearly than the sewer sequence where Katniss and her team are chased by Mutts (zombie-like creatures with massive teeth). The tense build-up is handled really well- almost playing like a sequence from a horror film (and pushing the boundaries of the 12A certificate)- but once the Mutts attack, the camerawork goes to pot, as does the lighting, and you're left with a morass of limbs. Frankly if Katniss hadn't screamed the name of the person who died, I wouldn't have been able to work it out. I know they're going for a kinetic pace but it's done at the cost of seeing what's going on.
Screenwriters Peter Craig and Danny Strong are mostly faithful to Suzanne Collins' source material. When I first read Mockingjay, at several points, I had a thought of 'how the hell are they going to do this on screen?' Like Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Mockingjay is dark. In places, really dark (and this is a franchise that starts with the idea of children killing each other for sport). There's a particularly defining moment in the book which, when I first read it, gave me a lump in the throat. That moment is reproduced here and it's a ballsy move by the filmmakers to include it.
Performance-wise, as all the rest have been, it's solid across the board. Lawrence is as watchable as ever as Katniss, whilst Donald Sutherland's performance has more steel and substance to it than in Part One; he's much less Bond-villain. No complaints either about Julianne Moore who brings a steely determination to the role of President Coin. Josh Hutcherson probably gives his best performance as Peeta, as he struggles to undo the torture he underwent in the Capitol whilst Liam Hemsworth is as dependable as ever as Gale. You can tell what was filmed after the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman- there's a scene at the end where Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) gives Katniss a letter from Plutarch, where it seems obvious that- had Hoffman still been around- Plutarch would have given the news himself.
Several actors get short-changed in this instalment, although make an impact when they do appear. I'm thinking specifically of Jena Malone, whose acerbic Johanna Mason has been one of the standout performances in the saga, Stanley Tucci and Elizabeth Banks, who is always superb as Effie. You can also add Gwendoline Christie to this list- the Game Of Thrones star pops up very briefly at the beginning as District 2 leader Commander Lyme but gives a suitably commanding performance.
Despite my grousing, the film is not a complete disaster and rounds The Hunger Games saga off competently. But it's exactly that: competent. Not good, not great. Competent. It had the potential to be superb but sadly, for me, that potential hasn't been realised.
Rating: 3 out of 5