In recent years, production companies have opted to divide the final instalment of blockbuster franchises into two parts. To hit extra plot points from the source material, sure, but most likely to get additional bang for their buck. The benefits of this is the ability to hit the ground running in the second half, and this was certainly a good choice for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. After the spoiled hunger games of the last few movies, the increased oppression and fear tactics from the Capitol, and the regular acts of defiance from the people of Panem, revolution is definitely in the air. For Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and the long thought dead members of District 13 led by Julianne Moore’s President Alma Coin, it is simply a matter of harnessing that energy into a rebellion that can overtake the Capitol.
In the midst of all this action is the love triangle that refuses to go away. Katniss is stuck between two loves: the kind forged by knowing someone your entire life, and the kind that only develops after surviving repeated episodes of extreme danger in another’s company. It doesn’t take a genius to notice that while Katniss feels guilty for her interrupted relationship with Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) – something that would have certainly blossomed into a future together had it not been for her participation in the Hunger Games – she is in love with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). His imprisonment and torture in the Capitol over the course of Mockingjay Part 1 was torment for Katniss who was willing to jeopardize opportunities to overthrow President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland) and his tyrannical government in exchange for saving Peeta’s life. By the end of the last film, Peeta is rescued, but he is sadly the victim of specialized torture techniques that have reduced him to a ghost of his former self, programmed to feel mortally threatened by one person: Katniss.
By the beginning of Part 2, Peeta has started to show progress due to the rehabilitative efforts of the doctors in District 13. But he retains the false memories planted in his mind by the Capitol and poses a continuous threat to Katniss’ safety. While he is unquestionably terrified of the tricks his mind is playing on him, he still manages to recall his genuine feelings for Katniss. It is hard to condemn Peeta for his neediness particularly when he is in such a vulnerable mental state, but is difficult not to be reminded of how annoying he is in his interactions with Katniss, interactions that carry a whiff of artificial self-sacrifice. In the background is Gale, much too proud to wheedle his way into Katniss’ heart, but plainly hurting. Trying to figure out which boy Katniss really loves and ultimately chooses turns into a tiresome subplot. To be fair, it is only natural to explore feelings about life and love in the face of possible death – not to mention the marketing value of the Team Peeta/Team Gale rivalry for the franchise – but the love triangle comes across as trivial in comparison to everything else that’s going on. As an audience, you can’t help but think: let’s get to the action. Viva la revolución!
Then again, if we were going to spend any time on relationships, it would have been nice to see more of Primrose and Katniss together. Theirs is one of the more moving storylines in the series. Primrose Everdeen’s development as a character over the course of the movies is lovely to watch and would have been even lovelier to explore if only there’d been more of it. No one needs reminding that it was Katniss’ love for Primose that set in motion the events leading to this revolution, and it is clear that they have both benefited the other by bringing out their best qualities and nurturing their hidden ones. Closed and distant Katniss is capable of displaying warmth towards the sister she is fiercely protective of, and Primrose grows up into a strong, capable, and independent woman thanks to her role model Katniss who bravely took her place as tribute in the first film. Their interactions in this final film are reduced to hugs and a quick dance during Finnick and Annie’s touching wedding scene. In previous movies, we only saw her when she was providing quick words of advice or encouragement for Katniss. Not having read the books, I can’t speak to whether this relationship was better written in the series, but the adaptation’s portrayal was left wanting.
As far as finales go, we largely got what we expected. There was much bloodshed and some difficult losses as we said goodbye to a few Hunger Games darlings that will send fans reeling back into the dark place they retreated to after the deaths of Rue and Cinna. As expected, Jennifer Lawrence carried the film tremendously with her performance as Katniss Everdeen, but it was also the performances of the actors in key supporting roles that ensured the film didn’t become a two hour hopscotch from one fight scene to the next. Jena Malone was intriguing to watch as Johanna Mason who manages to retain her spark even after all her suffering in the Capitol. Sam Claflin’s Finnick Odair is also a treat to watch. And of course, who can forget Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch? From the start, he has been the worn down but good at heart mentor to Katniss. He manages to make both Katniss and the audience feel safe in his company.
Mockingjay 2 is also notable for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s unfinished portrayal of Plutarch Heavensbee, Head Gamemaker and revolutionary. Hoffman died in February 2014 before he could finish filming his scenes. In lieu of using CGI to complete his part – the method employed by the makers of Furious 7 after the death of one of its stars, Paul Walker – one of his important scenes with Katniss was replaced by a conversation with Haymitch who reads a letter sent by Plutarch. Jennifer Lawrence described this as a fitting alternative saying that “to try to fake a Philip Seymour Hoffman performance would have been catastrophic” and that “this was the best way to get around such a horrible thing.”
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 took in over 46 million dollars at the box office on its opening day.