In the film's breathless movie poster, super-heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is seen levitating in the sky in a tight leather jumpsuit, an avenging angel of fire and arrows; but when we first see her in the film, she's anything but triumphant. Under the ugly fluorescent lights of a medical clinic, she looks pallid and spent, her throat marred by ugly purple bruises, her vocal chords so badly strained she can barely muster a whisper.
And it's no wonder she's looking so ragged. Much like Harry Potter by the time the concluding section of his last adventure rolled around, the yoke of the world's expectations are weighing all-too-heavily on her shoulders. One important principle in all of these teen-savior films is the fact that the singular, special character holds the key to the fate of everyone else in their orbit. They are burdened by their specialness, studied and hounded by everyone around them, and eventually must turn their burden into a positive instrument of change for the entire world.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2
80 Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci
Director: Francis Lawrence
Rating: PG-13, for intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic material
Running time: 137 minutes
It is not an encumbrance for the weak of spirit. Not only is Katniss physically damaged, she's also having to deal with the fact that her erstwhile love interest, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), rescued from the clutches of the ruthless President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in the previous installment, is still haunted by his torture and twisted up about his feelings for her, gazing longingly one second, and trying to kill her the next. Meanwhile, the other handsome man who's deeply in love with her, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), now spouts pro-war rhetoric ("It's war, Katniss. Sometimes killing isn't personal.") that would make Dick Cheney proud.
Both men seem to be constantly at her vigil, along with Snow and, via ubiquitous video coverage, the entire population of Panem on both sides of the war. Everyone is watching her for their cues, a curse not even world-famous superstars have to endure with so much intensity, a situation Lawrence herself might know a thing or two about.
Back with the rebellion, Katniss quickly recovers her strength -- in fact, everything happens too quickly in this film, as if director Francis Lawrence was given the mandate to jump ahead whenever possible; no sooner does a character propose a radical plan than it's being immediately implemented in the next scene -- and is put to immediate promotional use by the leader of the rebellion, President Coin (Julianne Moore). But as we've seen before, Katniss is no empty promo tool. Instead, she stows herself away in a supply ship heading back to the capital city in order to assassinate Snow herself.
Somehow, this dubious plan leads Katniss to be enjoined by a select crew of former Hunger Gamers, ordered by Coin to follow behind the front lines, shooting "propos" and photo ops for public relations purposes (author Suzanne Collins was reportedly obsessed with the role of PR offices in her novels), as they make their way past the booby trap "pods" strewn about the city by Snow's game designers. Once again thwarted from her self-appointed mission, Katniss is eventually freed from this duty, and persuades the surviving members of her team to help her eradicate Snow. She hatches an idiotic plan with the still-lovestruck Gale -- the two attempt to simply walk up to Snow's presidential palace along with the rest of the refugees of the city, in order to have a clean shot at him -- which, unsurprisingly, does not work the way they imagined.
As for my standard disclaimer about this series, I have not read the books so I can't compare the films to them directly, but as a stand-alone project, there's a distinct feeling of waning interest, both from the general public, who fell for Lawrence in the first film some three and a half years ago, and the filmmakers themselves, who, rather than take their sweet time with this conclusive second half of Mockingjay, are all too happy to speed through everything as fast as possible to get to the end sequence and be done with it.
Lawrence is always a joy to watch, but seeing her doing more substantial work elsewhere -- first in the excellent Winter's Bone, and more recently as the female muse in much of David O. Russell's career renaissance (including the forthcoming Joy) -- gives her performance here more than a little sense she's slumming through the remains of her Hunger Games contract. She's still capable of finding Katniss' fierceness, but for much of the film, even as it slogs endlessly through its increasingly tired love triangle, she just pouts her lips slightly and looks mewlish.
Indeed, much of the satiric bite from the first film, which skewed everything from celebrity culture to high fashion, has been drained out of this concluding chapter. Like a sitcom going on several seasons past its expiration date, trying to throw sparks onto increasingly waterlogged wood scraps in hopes of generating its previous heat, everything feels largely played out here. This includes the action climax, which attempts a plot twist so painfully set up and obvious you see it in the distance like a Vegas hotel on a cloudless night. Even the love triangle is eventually dispatched abruptly, allowing about 30 seconds of screen time for Katniss to find the truth about her would-be suitors and make a suddenly easy call. Nothing particularly matters, it turns out, and it has all come to a close, so why worry about it anymore?
Thankfully finished with the series that launched the megawatt phase of her career, Lawrence can now go back to being the world's biggest female star and endearingly trip on as many red carpets and Oscar podiums as she likes, the studio can count its many bags of money and the films themselves can be left behind gathering dust in a museum whose name no one can quite remember.
MovieStyle on 11/20/2015
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