Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review: "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2"

The "Hunger Games" saga ends not with a bang but a yawn. I haven't been a fan of this overstuffed film franchise based on the popular YA novels, but the final entry is easily the most tedious and least entertaining of the bunch.

Like other recent sci-fi/fantasy series, it takes the now-familiar and thoroughly discredited route of dividing the last novel into two movies. It's a transparent attempt to sell twice as many tickets for the same amount of story. With the Harry Potter books and the Hobbit, there was at least enough narrative to give the final movie momentum.

Suzanne Collins' engaging but thinly plotted book simply doesn't.

If you'll remember where we left off, the rebellious uprising against the Capitol District was starting to stick it to the villainous President Snow (Donald Sutherland, in full twinkly smirk mode) with the help of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) acting as the Mockingjay, the face of the insurgents.

But really, she has been more or less in thrall to the District 13 chief, Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), head creator of the nefarious Hunger Games, in which children killed each other for sport. Meanwhile, former ersatz lover Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) -- a relationship concocted for the benefit of the Games audience -- has been brainwashed by Snow into a maniacal urge to kill Katniss. And Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Katniss' stoic and grim actual love interest, labors hard at becoming grimmer and even more stoic.

Have I got all those names and faces straight? Good. A few other formerly important figures are in the mix, such as mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Katniss' kid sister, but they only show up to service the plot and then leave.

(Harrelson seems to have been given most of the expositive lines left over from Hoffman, who died during production.)

Basically, it's end times for Snow and the other leaders of Panem. Katniss and an ever-shrinking team of soldiers is infiltrating the Capitol on a quest (unauthorized) to take him out and end the war. But the outlying portion of the city has been evacuated and filled with pod snares, mutant mutts and other nasty challenges, essentially making it another giant booby-trapped iteration of the Hunger Games.

Peeta is unwisely inserted into the group as a PR move, and is distrusted by all, particularly Katniss. But his kind nature slowly reasserts itself over the mental "hijacking" he underwent, and she begins to remember the altruistic boy who has sacrificed so much for her.

There are surprisingly few action scenes. It's mostly running and hiding as the group makes its way toward Snow, are picked off by pods, share a few standoffs, etc. Only an attack in the sewers by mutated human "mutts" contains anything like a genuine thrill.

You wouldn't think that what is essentially one long chase would add up to a 2¼-hour movie... and it doesn't. "Mockingjay Part 2" is filled with pregnant pauses and dead spots. Despite some talented actors, the material is too goofy to ever take seriously. Snow dismisses Katniss as an easily manipulated puppet who's only good at shooting a bow, and for once the bad guy has it right.

No comments:

Post a Comment