Katniss’ story comes to its highly-anticipated conclusion in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2. The film opens in theaters around the globe this weekend.
Two of Hypable’s biggest Hunger Games fans (of the story, not the tournament) share their thoughts on the final installment of the series.
Mockingjay, Part 2 takes a bold and brave stand against current adaptation trends, proving that staying true to the story you are telling is never the wrong choice.
My expectations going into Mockingjay, Part 2 could not have been any higher. For me, this franchise represents the best of all the adaptations to grace our screens in recent years. The production team and cast have tackled this difficult story with care and sensitivity, and almost every change to the original source material has clearly been to the benefit of the story. I wanted a lot from this finale, and I was not disappointed.
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss is, and remains in this installment, the emotional heart of these films. In Mockingjay, Part 2 she is at her best: flying highest, burning brightest, and fighting hardest. But she is also at her worst, with the psychological trauma of her past ordeals very clearly influencing her decision. The events of the film would be shocking in any circumstance, but with Lawrence’s careful handling, they become devastating.
The adaptation choices continue to be smart and appropriate. The cutting of most District 13 scenes makes sense, given that we spent the majority of Mockingjay, Part 1 there. We see hints earlier in the film at the events to come, perhaps even more so than in the book, but it is never enough to spoil the ending. As with previous films, we see more of President Snow (and now President Coin) than Katniss would have had reason to in the book, which only adds to the realism of these two antagonists.
There will certainly be people who argue that Mockingjay, Part 2 is boring, or lacks action. But those responses fail to recognize the beauty of what Mockingjay offered us as a book. This was never going to be an action-packed finale; this is a story about the awful, heart-breaking and messy reality of war. Instead, the filmmakers have made the most of the extra time provided by splitting the book to allow the emotional moments to sing, and the tension to build.
When there is violence or action, it punctuates the stillness and tension of the film in gripping bursts. These scenes offer enough contrast to hold our interest without taking away from the film’s soul: the emotional arcs for our characters. After two films of intentionally glorified violence, to turn this finale into an action blockbuster would have been entirely inappropriate. By refusing to replicate the story arcs of previously successful adaptations, they have honored the story they are telling.
It is worth noting that I saw the film with a book fan and another friend who didn’t know the story. As all three of us left the theater feeling satisfied (and a little emotionally exhausted), I am confident in calling this a good film even outside of its work as an adaptation.
As for the bad? No film is perfect, and it is the rare film that benefits from an epilogue with aged-up characters. Mockingjay, Part 2 was no exception. I understand the point they were making, but it lacked the impact of the book and felt awkward and unnecessary. I also missed some scenes with Finnick (Sam Claflin) and especially Johanna (Jena Malone). Malone was a standout when she was on screen, but she lost a lot of her emotional arc thanks to the streamlined story (and the cutting of those District 13 scenes I mentioned earlier).
Standouts: Every scene between Katniss and Peeta, and Katniss and Gale, and the trio; the bittersweet moments with Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last onscreen roles; and an understated salute to Katniss by a crowd that will bring you to tears.
See it? Duh. Having seen Mockingjay, Part 2, I still maintain that these are the best book-to-film YA adaptations we have had. This film sends our Mockingjay off with love; you won’t be disappointed.
The Mockingjay flies too close to the source material for the finale and suffers because of it.
I had high hopes for Mockingjay, Part 2. History tells us that when the final book in a series is split into two movies, the second half will be better than the first. This is how I felt after seeing both parts of Deathly Hallows and Breaking Dawn.
Surprisingly, Mockingjay’s back-half is only as good as the first — that is to say neither part is excellent. While this was a disappointing conclusion to come to, I have no one to blame but the source material. The adaptation is perhaps too loyal to the book, and for once I’ve found myself wishing that screenwriters diverted more.
If the story had to be split into two movies, Mockingjay, Part 2 should’ve been much heavier on action. After sitting through a slow Part 1, this is what we deserve! I wanted a linear story about Katniss working her way to Snow then kicking his ass, but instead what we got was a film consisting of just as many slow moments as action-packed ones. For example, I wanted much less about the Katniss/Peeta/Gale love triangle — romance can wait until after an evil dictator is removed from power.
In a grand finale like this, action-packed moments should make up the large majority of the movie. This film just felt bipolar to me.
Another example of a low: I realize that this was in the book, but Katniss visiting Snow in his backyard for an afternoon chat felt bizarre. After all that has happened, she comes face to face with her arch enemy and… talks with him peacefully? It just didn’t work on screen.
With that said, there were a couple of changes made for the film that did improve the story: Prim was the one who spoke to Peeta at the beginning to test his mental state (in the book it’s Delly). Later, the screenplay decided to skip over the part in the book where Katniss and Johanna have to train to prove themselves worthy to fight. While I was re-reading this section of the book this week I had forgotten about it and wondered why Suzanne Collins bothered to write this portion in the first place.
I think Mockingjay would’ve been a much better adaptation if it was one three hour film rather than two two hour arcs. In the case of The Hunger Games franchise, the greedy Capitol won.
Though my feelings about Part 2 are mixed, I look back on this series with a lot of admiration. It is still one of the best (if not the best) adaptations of a book series we’ve seen. The cast is stellar, the story is important, and there was a lot of beautiful filmmaking throughout. I’ll always love you, Katniss.
Highlights: Every scene where Johanna speaks, Katniss and Gale’s march towards Snow’s mansion, and the adorable epilogue.
See it? It’s the final freakin’ Hunger Games movie. You can’t not see it.
What did you think?
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