The final installment of the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay – Part 2, received relatively little fanfare compared to the releases of the previous films. Though it is probably fair to say that the interest dwindled after Catching Fire due to many audiences feeling the series had become “too dark,” it wasn’t really until after Mockingjay – Part 1 that the general fan base seemed to disappear entirely.
For me, the issue with the Hunger Games film series is relatively simple: it is neither brutal enough nor committed enough to what the essence of the Hunger Games story is.
I read all of the books in the Hunger Games series, and remember that I felt a similar disinterest about the final book as I did with the final film. It just seemed that the idea had run its course by the end of Catching Fire, and that anything that followed the second book’s publication was just a feeble attempt to bring in more money and to wrap up a story that didn’t particularly need more wrapping.
For me, the trilogy struggled because of inconsistent and scattered writing, not because of a flawed story. In fact, I love the idea behind the Hunger Games, in its bizarre amalgamation of The Lord of the Flies, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” and a bit of The Purge, all rolled into one. I think the idea of rich kids and poor kids having to kill each other to maintain order in the adult world is twisted and brilliant – a vaccination to a society suffering from affluenza and living in Tiger Mom bubbles. Unfortunately, Suzanne Collins just didn’t seem to have the guts to kill Piggy – er, Katniss – and Hollywood followed suit, “Disney-fying” the whole series and creating the perfect recipe for a lackluster conclusion. A non-believable love story that pits “Team Peeta” against “Team Gale,” a heartless war that peters in its cruelty, and a poorly paced script that makes audiences feel like they are dragging at some points and being tossed around a pinball machine at another all make for a series conclusion that lacks anything like a spark, a “fire,” or a rebellion.
The problem with Mockingjay – Part 2, then, is that it is a true adaption of the final chapters of the Hunger Games series – meaning it sticks to Collins’s decision to write an ending to her books that neither shocks nor inspires, but instead makes you wish you’d just read the first book or two and then stopped there. Sure, there are points in the book and movie that make you gasp and go, “Wow!” but there are just as many moments that make you cringe and go, “Why?” In a way, it reminds me of the (totally unnecessary) epilogue of the final Harry Potter book – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – but at least with J.K., it was only one chapter at the end of an otherwise fantastic series, and one that was fairly easy to ignore.
Still, Mockingjay – Part 2 does deserve some props. Julianne Moore is excellent as President Coin, though her dialogue was a bit more one-note than I would have hoped. Donald Sutherland continues to be creepy as hell while also somehow managing to appear the most rational of any of the folks we encounter in the capitol. Woody Harrelson and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman reprise their roles as Haymitch and Heavensbee, respectively, and do more with expressions than most people can accomplish through the most expertly written soliloquies.
To say that the final installment of the Hunger Games was a failure would be an overstatement; the movie was well-shot, well-acted, and well-adapted. For me, the blame for its plateauing and eventually disappearing interest falls on the shoulders (spine?) of the book series, which pre-established a story, arc, and timeline that simply didn’t impress. If the point of Mockingjay – Part 2 was simply to adapt the existing fiction and put it on the big screen, then the movie was just fine; however, in my mind, conceptualization and ideology behind The Hunger Games deserved more than a mere adaptation.
If you want to watch a movie that has good special effects, decent ominous music, and an all-star cast doing their summer vacation work, then see the Hunger Games trilogy – just don’t expect much more of it than you would of any YA fiction, especially from a trilogy where just one book would have been enough.