This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 22nd November 2015
The first Hunger Games was terrific: fresh and exciting, the unsavoury tale of children being coerced into killing children paved the way for how Young Adult dystopia should look, and then spawned too many similarly-themed franchises. The second instalment had its charms (mainly in the wardrobe department) but when Hollywood hit upon dividing the third and final book into two drawn-out movies, it hit a bump in the road.
Mockingjay – Part 2 picks up where its predecessor left off, with our heroes living in District 13 as they form a plan to storm the Capitol. Meanwhile, Katniss is determined to fulfil her own mission by killing the now ailing President Snow (a benign-looking Donald Sutherland who just isn’t evil enough to warrant taking revenge on).
But for a finale, it’s just a bit boring. Apart from watching the team weave its way through the booby-trapped city (these set-pieces provide the only jolts of excitement in the whole film but are indeed nicely executed), the viewer’s biggest stimulus will be matching up what they see on screen with every dystopian trope they’ve seen in the last three years. It’s hard to remember what Katniss and Crew have been up to when they all dress like Abnegants in Divergent. The battle-torn city has echoes of Inception, while the creatures they flee from evoke the Cranks who terrorise those other persecuted teens in The Scorch Trials. The screen lights up only when Jena Malone spits out some delicious bitterness – otherwise, the film’s sole aspect of human interest is the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale, which isn’t getting any less equilateral.
Granted, your heart thuds a little to see Philip Seymour Hoffman gracing the screen for one last time (his death during filming meant that a pivotal emotional moment had to be delivered by another character), and Julianne Moore is her usually reliable self, albeit in a one-dimensional part – but Mockingjay 2 is disappointingly low-key considering its importance to this extremely successful trilogy. As my companion said, as the credits rolled: “Well, that didn’t really sing, did it?”