The following review contains spoilers
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 lives up to its name, at once feeling like many different things and simultaneously like only half of something. As conclusion to Part 1 and the entire Hunger Games Series, the movie mostly feels like an indistinguishable amalgamation of events hurtling, albeit at slow speed, towards an unsatisfying conclusion.
Director Francis Lawrence has less to work with in this movie since it’s Part 2 and doesn’t include an actual “hunger games”; and in this respect he does a good job trying to make a main narrative out of Katniss and the “dream team” of elite soldiers working their way into the enemy capitol on a mission to kill President Snow. For example, the scenes in which the squad scrambles to get themselves out of a complex as rising levels of oil threaten or when they are navigating the underground tunnels of the city and attacked by mutants are reminiscent of the games in the prior installments: suspenseful and exciting. Further, the key scene in which Katniss is supposed to execute Snow delivers emotion, humor, and catharsis.
Another high point comes with Jennifer Lawrence’s acting talents, which here are on full display; she acts as a constant point of interest in the film, even when other elements disappoint. Part 2 startlingly opens on a close-up shot of Katniss’ bruised face as a doctor inspects her for injuries stemming from Peeta’s attack at the end of the last movie. Mesmerizingly, Katniss tries to speak and we can feel and hear her strain, immediately giving the movie the emotional gravitas it needs as the finale to a much-beloved series.
Lawrence is the film’s rightful star, but it seems as though no other character gets enough time on screen. Mockingjay is largely about Katniss’ coming to terms with being an icon and how to use her position as a force for good, but no other character got the attention they needed, which in a 2 ¼-hour movie doesn’t seem congruent. The old, familiar favorites - Haymitch, Effie, Caesar Flickerman, and Katniss’ mother - are all tossed in just to say a few lines and make an obligatory appearance, which is a kind of tease and waste. Lawrence’s presence and acting abilities make this better but not completely forgivable.
The film greatly suffers from its problematic script. Pivotal moments between characters become unintentionally awkward and laughable due to random lines like when Gale says to Katniss, “You kiss like you’re drunk…you’re distracted, which doesn’t count.” Scenes with great emotional weight such as the flash-forwarded ending elicit laughs from the audience such as when Katniss says, “I have nightmares too,” to her baby. When Katniss asks Haymitch what they should do now after the fighting has been quelled, he replies, “Go home.” It’s so corny and cliché that I felt like I could have been watching any number of movies. The timing in general felt off and jarring throughout the movie - even the title credits flashed at a seemingly unimportant moment.
Further, the film too constantly vacillates between ominous, over-arching wide-angle shots of war-torn areas, political rallies, and invasions and close-up views of humans in pain. By the time we see Katniss utterly break down, complete with tears and drool, at the sight of her sister Primrose’s cat we have been shown one too many harrowing emotional transformations in the character to feel its importance. The cinematography and set design in these moments is so stark and divergent from the grandiose depictions of their country, Panem, that the scenes’ heavy tone can’t be absorbed fully or doesn’t resonate because they pull you out of the movie.
The film, like the book, leaves events and relationships fairly wrapped-up without delving into too many details about the futures of the characters. Unsatisfying and unfitting for a finale, characters are said good-bye to quickly and without much consideration. The film tries to make itself an exemplar of show-don’t-tell, but because of this it comes across as overly obvious in some moments and sterile in others, as in the cases of characters’ deaths. In the end, the movie, like its heroine, felt tired and stuck in re-mixing events and emotions we have already seen from the series.