You evil, evil bastard. All this bloodshed over the course of four long years has just been a game to you, hasn’t it? Yeah sure, you were just doing your job, using the manipulated spectacle of teenage deaths to pacify the masses, but did you ever stop to think about the consequences of your involvement in the project? No, really. I’m not just comparing you to the evil game makers within the world of The Hunger Games – I’m talking about your real-life job with this franchise. The one where you and your merchandising masters cram in on-screen action that’s more appealing to the consumer video game market. I could feel your sweaty little button pushing fingers everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t need the love triangle storyline between Katniss, Peta and Gale dragged out any more than it has been. I actually looked forward to the much-promised action sequences of storming the Capitol and wreaking retribution against President Snow. The only problem is, there came a point where I could feel the filmmakers hearts weren’t in this story for the thrills. The action was often treated like a necessary evil to appease the demands of big budget studio filmmaking.
Look no further than the film’s reverse action movie structure, which opens small and closes small, only cramming in action to the middle sections to pad the already stretched exposition. In almost every other action series, that formula is reversed. Mission: Impossible, James Bond,Fast & Furious – they all rely on opening with a grand stunt to set the stage for what’s to come. Mockingjay,both parts, actually, go in the opposite direction. Both cold opens linger on the psychological effects that killing and manipulation has had on its characters. It’s actually a refreshing change of pace. But it also is an implicit statement of where the heart of the franchise lies – and it is surely not in escaping mutated monsters that are given absolutely no context within the film. In fact, I have a strong feeling they were cooked up by one of your gaming programmers as an easy-to-kill foe that can be cloned and repeated in whatever video game spin-off this series spits out.
The rest of the action, however, feels much truer to the spirit of the franchise. In theory, Mockingjay Part 2 finds a way to shoe-horn in the idea of violence as spectacle with President Snow saying he’ll film the invasion and subsequent quashing of the rebels to help propagandize his cause. So the hidden booby-traps spread around the city are at least motivated by some internal logic, and lead to some exciting and consequential scenes. But action in theThe Hunger Games series is only effective as an expression of love, and that gets harder to swallow when Katniss starts engaging in Avengers-level invincibility against the sewer monsters (who, truth to be told, look pretty great).
It’s probably not fair for me to pin all the film’s short comings on an admittedly small section of the film. The series definitely suffered by splitting up these final two films, and expecting a casual audience to have thought of this world at all in between. So by the time I felt caught up with all the personal dynamics, it already felt too late. Too many characters were only given a token amount of screen time, to the point their inclusion felt more like fan-service than smart storytelling. Not to mention the eeriness of seeing a resurrected Philip Seymour Hoffman sleepwalking through a thankless role (with only one situation that felt like a CGI manipulation).
The film was strongest when it rejected the idea of the games altogether. Plotlines about refugees and asylum seekers from the Capitol can’t help but evoke reminders of the people from Syria, and it’s a credit to The Hunger Games that none of these issues are given an easy solution. The rejection of being treated like pawns, even when it’s proven effective, elevates the material beyond what you’d expect to be directed at teenagers. It would have been nice if you and your team had followed suit.