The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2: EW review

5 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2′: Film Review.

Jennifer —who has dated Coldplay frontman Chris Martin — wore an elegant full-length gown which was slashed to reveal her stunning bra-less figure.

“It gets a little tedious after all these years,” Katniss Everdeen admits about her life’s obligations in her final line of dialogue after 547 accumulated minutes of The Hunger Games films.What started as a game culminates in deadly serious terms with a full-scale overthrow of the system itself in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” which counters the meager helpings offered by most teen-driven entertainment with one of the heartiest character arcs ever afforded a young female protagonist.

The star, who appears alongside Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson in the movie, has recently been vocal about the gender pay gap in the film industry. It’s hard not to agree with her, nor to imagine that there are too many people — Jennifer Lawrence included — who will be sorry to see this overdrawn series end.

After being forced to hunt other innocent children for sport, Katniss Everdeen rallies her fellow rebels to rise up against the Capitol, and that’s not even the most revolutionary thing about this fourth and final installment in Suzanne Collins’ dystopian adventure series, which continues to implicate its own fan base in the bloodlust even as it kills off many of their favorite characters. People really understand and love the books and they show up in a big way.” Although fans may be sad to see the franchise end, the cast and crew reflected on the last five years with great memories from filming and fondness for the characters and the films. “We feel such a sense of accomplishment. Not too many, that is, except for the folks at Lionsgate, who have tallied $2.315 billion in worldwide box office grosses from their three previous adaptations of Suzanne Collins’ blockbuster book trilogy and can count on raking in another $800 million, give or take, from this pervasively grim final edition to the series.

Not only for any helpful exposition—Mockingjay Part 2 opens midscene, as if the pause button on Part 1 just wore out its one-year warranty—but for the future of all Panem’s citizens. Katniss may be 17 years old as “The Hunger Games” reaches its long-awaited finale, but in the hands of director Francis Lawrence (who took the reins from Gary Ross after the first film), the series has veered far from the realm of traditional young-adult entertainment. What started off onscreen as a lush, outdoorsy, futuristic gladiatorial adventure has, to close things out, become a dark, often stifling tale of rebel insurrection that takes place largely underground or in dangerous urban ruins. Our heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is bruised and broken after a vicious assassination attempt by her onetime best friend/fiancé/fellow warrior Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), whose mind has been turned to a paranoid 12 Monkeys mush by President Snow’s shadowy forces.

For all intents and purposes, “Mockingjay” is a war movie, albeit one starring an iconic, athletic Joan of Arc-like heroine (once again played by Jennifer Lawrence) and featuring battle scenes that feel suspiciously like extensions of previous Hunger Games — those arena death matches where sadistic dictator Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland, that master of the menacing grin) unleashed high-tech and bioengineered weapons, which have since been tucked away into booby-trapped “pods” all over the Capitol streets. The rebellion is in shambles, the Districts are turning on one another, and even Snow himself seems diminished; these days, poisoning an insubordinate at the dinner table elicits only the thinnest Putin-esque wisp of a smile. Though these inventive challenges make for an entertaining Capture the Flag-style obstacle course, Collins (who once again earns an “adaptation” credit) and returning screenwriters Peter Craig and Danny Strong are clearly more concerned with the mass-media manipulation of combat footage than the are in what actually transpires in the trenches. He was very encouraging. (On set) I love to sit in video village and be in on the action.” (After directing “Pitch Perfect 2” to record success, she will be returning to direct “Pitch Perfect 3,” which will be released in Aug. 2017.) Willow Shields was greeted with a big hug by on-screen sister Jennifer Lawrence on the carpet. “The love they have for each other is unlike any other love in the books,” she said of their characters. “Katniss’ story is deeply resonant — it speaks to both the anxiety and the hope that we feel, and the potential we feel that one person can stand up and make a change,” said Jacobson.

In fact, Collins’ most surprising and satisfying achievement in the the series’ third installment was her handling of Coin, whose profile as a people’s champion against an oppressive, tyrannical regime is increasingly contaminated by totalitarian impulses of her own and crafty ploys aimed at reducing Katniss to a mere figurehead for the revolutionary movement. Modern warfare, Collins suggests, is literally a “show of force,” complete with all the theatricality that implies, and her dystopian Oz will ultimately be ruled by the showman — or woman, since Snow’s worthiest rival is Alma Coin (a severe if somewhat less interesting Julianne Moore) — with the most compelling narrative to share over the airwaves.

This element is similarly the most engaging aspect of the latest film and, while it doesn’t really occupy much screen time, it provides a dramatically arresting action climax. Once she’s recovered enough to strap on her longbow again, it’s decided that she will join an all-star team of Tributes on a march toward the Capitol—more as a propaganda squad than an actual battle unit, since they’ll be broadcasting their progress from well behind the front lines.

Needless to say, it would be unwise for anyone not yet versed in the series’ mythology to jump in at this late stage, as “Mockingjay — Part 2” is no mere sequel, but the finale of an ambitious narrative in which the tragedy of each fatality relies on connections established in previous films. As the carpet wrapped up, Jennifer Lawrence promised to continue to autograph for the fans. “I swear to God, I’m going to try to sign for all of you!” When asked what she was most looking forward during her night in Berlin, she answered in her most Jennifer Lawrencian way, “I’m pretty hungry, we’re getting dinner.” Contributing most to the early sense of stasis is Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta, who, since his liberation after being brainwashed by Capitol forces, is required to be strapped down while he babbles threatening diatribes against Katniss. And in one terrifying sequence, a slithering mass of mutants with boiled-frog skin and barracuda teeth attack, turning an underground tunnel into a death trap. That said, director Lawrence does allow enough room for audiences to process what’s unfolding before them, working at a classical pace that’s become increasingly rare among breakneck modern blockbusters.

At this point, you might start to wonder how a young-adult audience will handle scenes scary enough to make old adults long for the relative mutant-free safety of The Martian. (Matt Damon may be 50 million miles from home, but at least he’s alone.) It’s a good question, and one parents will have to answer at their own discretion. One could argue that “Mockingjay” didn’t really merit being split in two (and surely a single three-hour movie could be made of it), but we benefit from the fact that the film has been given room to breathe, which allows for subtle character moments — including a nice bonding scene between Katniss and standoffish fellow victor Johanna (Jena Malone) that substitutes for their having been roommates in the book — and the gradual building of suspense during the actual siege in the Capitol. Coin’s inner circle seems well down the path to having become mere yes-men, and here it must be noted that Mock 2 marks the final film appearance of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died last year before completing his role as Plutarch Heavensbee, a former Snow ally now serving as Coin’s right hand. Suzanne Collins’ source material always fell outside the conventional YA curve—it is, after all, about kids killing kids for sport—but she also placed her dystopian themes inside a balanced moral universe, and gave us a female protagonist who was smart and complicated and thrillingly self-determined. He has very little to do here (also the case for Jeffrey Wright as another adviser) and it’s hard to tell if digital sleight-of-hand is at work in any of his scenes or whether his lines were spoken by him or finessed by other means.

The first two films managed the challenge of visually presenting the books’ violence without tipping into territory their target demo couldn’t handle. Mockingjay, though, strays too far into darkness: With its political power struggles and prodigious body count, all rendered in a thousand shades of wintry greige, the movie feels less like teen entertainment than a sort of Hunger Games of Thrones.

Or to echo Peeta’s distress in his own words, borrowing a line that may as well apply to the entire media-managed revolution: “Real or not real?” Such questions hover over nearly everything in “Part 2,” where what remains of Katniss and Peeta’s always ambiguous romance becomes still more complex, now that the purity of his love has been cast in doubt. The acting and production values are still well above grade, and Lawrence skillfully holds the center, letting everything the skeletal dialogue doesn’t say play across her face. In the past, Peeta’s feelings for her were always sincere, whereas Katniss was the one who performed her part exclusively for the cameras’ benefit, guarding her heart for childhood sweetheart Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Once the squad emerges from a long initial spell underground, a videogame vibe takes over as the group pushes through the largely vacated Capitol toward Snow’s palace. Now, Katniss fears that Peeta has been programmed to assassinate her, but also discovers that Gale isn’t the man she once believed, but rather a ruthless battle strategist willing to sacrifice innocent lives in his attacks on District 2 and the Capitol.

The rebels’ scope reveals the whereabouts of countless “pods” that have been hidden throughout the city and will explode or set off other nasty reactions when approached. But she will not be deterred, not after all she’s been through, and at least the climax has been handled adeptly so that fans will be pleased and those who have never read the book might actually be taken by surprise. In the intervening time, she has gained an audience with Panem’s top power mongers, her cynicism steadily growing as she comes to recognize how such individuals operate. By this point, Coin is as much a figure of suspicion as Snow, and Katniss disobeys her orders (to function as rebel-alliance cheerleader in “propos,” or propaganda spots, directed against the Capitol) and decides to hunt Snow down herself — an easier choice to understand than the pic’s subversive final twist, which spectacularly re-establishes Katniss’ defiant individuality. As demonstrated in an early scene, when a P.O.W. from District 2 holds her at gunpoint and demands one good reason he shouldn’t pull the trigger, Katniss considers her life no more valuable than those around her, refusing to buy into her own mythology.

Anyone could have seen the vast cinematic potential in the story of a rural teenage girl plucked from her poor, simple life, thrust into repeated life-and-death survival competitions only to emerge as a star and, finally, becoming not only a symbol but an instrument of political revolution against a totalitarian regime. Though she has allies — and indeed reteams with a squad of familiar faces, including Gale, newly wed Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and former bodyguard Boggs (Mahershala Ali) for the Capitol assault — Katniss’ latest moral dilemmas leave her feeling more alone than ever. A bit of a bump ensued when the first entry’s director and co-writer, Gary Ross, evidently couldn’t or wouldn’t commit to turning out scripts fast enough to ensure the annual release rate Lionsgate desired, but a consistent, reliable, if uninspired replacement was found in Francis Lawrence. Like little Frodo Baggins, crushed and corrupted by his heavy burden over the course of three films, she’s not the same person she was when her adventure began.

Similarly, Jennifer Lawrence isn’t the same actress, having grown from the hardy yet resourceful child of “Winter’s Bone” to the assertive adult seen in “American Hustle.” That evolution serves her character well, and Lawrence (the director) engineers the film to replicate the effect of Collins’ first-person narration. James on the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, novelist Collins maintained involvement and input (she received an unusual “adaptation” screenwriting credit on the final two installments) and good writers were hired to do solid carpentry, which they did. We experience much of “Mockingjay” from a relatively subjective point of view, either seeing things over her shoulder or processing how the resulting emotions register on her face, which the actress controls with a subtlety befitting the widescreen pic’s Imax proportions. Aesthetic consistency was maintained by production designer Philip Messina and composer James Newton Howard working on all four films; after cinematographer Tom Stern left along with Ross, Jo Willems shot all of Lawrence’s installments.

That same subtlety doesn’t necessarily extend to James Newton Howard’s score, which fluctuates from soap-opera-style piano accents to full-blown action-movie bombast (with a lovely Celtic wedding ballad on the occasion of Finnick’s marriage). Even if the illustrious supporting players were just punching the clock much of the time, almost all of them — Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Moore, Wright and, yes, even Hoffman when his character’s allegiances shifted — had their bust-out moments somewhere along the line.

And then there’s Sutherland, who, after exuding pestilential inhumanity and condescension for three-and-a-half films, saves the best for last; even in the face of his unquestioned demise, he can only regard the upstart Katniss with a look of amused disdain, followed by profound ironic laughter that echoes Walter Huston’s at the end of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; in fact, the moment is cut too short. The film makes up for that with impressive Capitol action, building the city above and below ground through a combination of heavy-concrete German locations and digital trickery, best showcased in a terrific set piece in which Katniss and her crew work out personal differences amid a rising tide of black oil.

The nasty liquid swallows a few of her friends, while others die in even more horrifying ways later on, but there’s no fun left in killing, either for Katniss or her fans. Now that this series is over, Lawrence is theoretically free to do twice as many non-franchise films as she has over the past four years, which means she’ll be able to work with directors other than Lawrence and David O.

Though the script adheres to Collins’ novel, everything that follows feels extraneous, with a succession of endings straining the patience somewhat. While the series remarkably managed to sustain its cast and credibility across four increasingly ambitious features, Francis Lawrence doesn’t quite recognize when it’s game over. Medel, Ainslie Thomas, Patrick Thomas O’Rourke, Robbie Janda; visual effects, Double Negative, Weta Digital Ltd., MPC, the Embassy Visual Effects, Cantina Creative, Lola VFX, Skulley Effects, Exceptional Minds; special makeup effects/prosthetics, Glenn Hetrick’s Optic Nerve; supervising stunt coordinator, R.A. Rondell; stunt coordinators, Sam Hargrave, Ralph Haeger, Philippe Guegan; fight coordinator, Hargrave; associate producers, Cameron MacConomy, Jeffrey Harlacker; assistant director, Christopher Surgent; second unit director, Charles Gibson; second unit camera, Josh Bleibtreu; casting, Debra Zane.

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