Box Office: ‘Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2’ Aims for $102 Million Weekend

21 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2’ review: Jennifer Lawrence lost in unsatisfying final film.

For four films now, she has played Katniss Everdeen as a reluctant hero and flummoxed lover, caught in a violent revolutionary war and willowy love triangle. Her performance has ranged from inspired to dutiful, and in this, the final chapter in the big-screen franchise, she is, disappointlingly, nothing but dutiful. The feeling that washes over you as the credits roll is less in line with the triumphant end of an action movie than some war epic like “Saving Private Ryan.” And that’s weird, considering (a) the franchise is targeted at teen girls and (b) the movie ended with our hero, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), winning the battle against President Snow and dismantling his grotesque dictatorship.

She’s a major talent, but “The Hunger Games” phenomenon overshadows her: $2-plus billion (and counting) in movie ticket sales alone, millions of copies of Suzanne Collins’ book trilogy sold, merch, merch, merch and surely way more fanfiction than we’d ever want to read. Collin’s conclusive novel, “Mockingjay,” was adapted into two films totaling nearly four-and-a-half hours of screen time, and now that we’ve seen the results, the decision to do so clearly wasn’t creative, but to boost the bottom line. In “Mockingjay 2,” Katniss struggles with being a pawn in the war between Alma Coin’s (Julianne Moore) revolution and President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) fascist Capitol regime. Katniss wants to fight for real, on the ground aside the ragamuffin rebels, but is pressed into duty as a symbolic figurehead, the face of the revolution’s propaganda strategies.

But the parallel diverges when Katniss defies orders and goes rogue, concocting her own plan to infiltrate the Capitol, assassinate Snow and foil Coin’s plan to make her a martyr for the cause. Just compare the blockbuster to other recent movies in the genre: “Jurassic World,” “The Martian,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the Harry Potter series, the “Avengers” movies and the “Divergent” franchise, among others, have a totally different feel, because they make space for moments of joy within all the darkness. But, whether through offbeat exchanges between friends and love interests or quippy one-liners, the mood in most movies occasionally lightens. “Hunger Games” isn’t that kind of movie. And once again, the actress trades embarrassing dialogue with Liam Hemsworth, as love interest and freedom fighter Gale, with punctiliousness: “What’s going on in your head?” he asks, as her other would-be boyfriend, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), is strapped to a hospital bed, dealing with a nasty bit of Capitol brainwashing. Granted, she has a lot on her mind, between getting strangled by her fiance, being chased by mutts and hatching a plan to assassinate the dictator-to-be.

It’s possible this might be intended as the film’s moment of cornball levity – I know, maybe that’s a stretch – but if so, it’s fleeting. “Mockingjay 2” is a thoroughly serious affair punctuated by grim, if not necessarily graphic, and therefore PG-13, moments of wartime brutality, which hit close to home for our heroine. But even during the last scene, after life has settled down and she’s back in District 12 with two kids and a husband, she still seems weighed down by the horrors of the past. Unlike “Mockingjay – Part 1,” in which Katniss fired one arrow from her bow – I counted – the film delivers reasonably satisfying and suspenseful action sequences, even when they’re abundant with lapses in storytelling logic. It takes about an hour for “Mockingjay 2” to rev up, with Katniss leading a small team of soldiers through the Capitol towards Snow’s mansion stronghold.

Among them are past Hunger Games warriors Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and Cressida (Natalie Dormer), as well as, of course, wild card Peeta, and Gale, who’s a higher-up of some kind in the revolutionary hierarchy and might have some input in Coin’s political maneuverings, although that’s never made entirely clear. One of the action sequences features a sewer battle with “Capitol mutts,” a swarm of pale-skinned monsters rendered as the unholy off spring of C.H.U.D.s and H.R. So when bombs annihilate a large crowd, we’re not inoculated from the pain the way we are while watching “John Wick.” The blast makes an emotional impact. Director Francis Lawrence rips off “Aliens” mightily – does Katniss really need to participate in just another bug hunt? – but never convinces us why having unarmed creatures paw and hiss at the heavily armed heroes would be a strategic advantage for the Capitol.

The character showed significant growth in the series’ strongest entry, 2013’s “Catching Fire,” but she’s since been boiled down to little more than a smidgen of steely reserve, a half-developed death wish and a furrowed brow. She’s not one for baby talk, though, and rather than cooing sweet sentiments to her offspring, she talks about the nightmares she can’t seem to shake.

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