Sci-Fi Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 (dir by Francis Lawrence)


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It’s finally over!

It probably sounds like I’m really excited that the final Hunger Games adaptation has been released.  It may sound like I’m happy that the saga of Katniss Everdeen and her life in Panem has finally come to an end.  And, to a certain extent, I am.  After everything that Katniss has been through, she deserves some peace and, fortunately, the series has ended before Jennifer Lawrence got bored with playing the role.  (To see what happens when actor gets bored with an iconic role, check out Daniel Craig in Spectre.)  Even though I think it can be argued that Mockingjay Part Two is the weakest of all the Hunger Games films, it still allows both Katniss and the actress who brought her to life to go out on a high note.

There’s a part of me that cringes a little when I think about all of the films that were released as a direct result of the success of The Hunger Games.  The Giver, The Maze Runner, Divergent, Tomorrowland, the list goes on and on.  I’ve reached the point where I can now say that I am officially sick of sitting through adaptations of Young Adult dystopian fiction.  And yet, I was still excited to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two (even if that title is way too long and unwieldy).  Regardless of the number of mediocre films that it may have inspired, The Hunger Games franchise has always remained compelling.

So, how was Mockingjay Part Two?  Obviously, it doesn’t work as a stand-alone film.  The pacing is totally off, characters appear and disappear almost at random, and it’s all rather confusing.  If you haven’t seen the film that came before Mockingjay Part Two, I imagine that you would be totally confused by this film.  But, when viewed as the fourth part of one gigantic epic story, the whole thing is rather brilliant.

When the film opens, Katniss is still being used a prop in Alma Coin’s (Julianne Moore) revolution.  The majority of the film deals with her journey into and through the capital.  She wants to track down and assassinate President Snow (the wonderfully evil Donald Sutherland) whereas Coin just wants to use her as a symbol to solidify her authority.  As Katniss quickly realizes, there’s not much difference between Snow and Coin.  However, it takes one great tragedy for Katniss to truly understand the truth about the Alma Coin and her revolution.  If you’ve read the book, you’ll already know about and be prepared for that tragedy but it’s still a heart-breaking moment.

It’s also the most important moment in the franchise, one that reminds us that The Hunger Games has always been far more politically sophisticated (and thematically darker) than all of the films, books, and fan fic that has been inspired by it.  This is a seriously dark and, some would say, cynical movie and, as a student of history, I appreciated that.  I appreciated that Mockingjay didn’t try to force a happy ending on us and I also appreciated the fact that Mockingjay didn’t buy into the simplistic Manichaen worldview that is currently ruining worlds both real and cinematic.  The film’s final scene may be hopeful but it’s never naive.

It’s a bit unfortunate that Mockingjay had to be split into two separate films.  Mockingjay Part Two is full of exciting moments but there’s also a lot of scenes that feel like filler.  You get the feeling they were included to make sure that Mockingjay Part Two’s running team was equal to the other films in the franchise.  This is a film that features a lot of genuinely exciting action and some truly emotional moments.  It’s also a film that features a lot of speeches.  If only both parts of Mockingjay could have been released as one six hour film.  I would have watched it!

The film also features the final performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing the rule of Plutarch.  Hoffman is not in many scenes and reportedly, he died before filming two of his biggest scenes.  Those scenes were rewritten and his dialogue given to other actors.  At one point, Woody Harrelson starts to read a letter that was written by Plutarch and it’s a sad scene because you’re aware that, originally, Hoffman was meant to deliver those lines in his trademark style.  As it is, Hoffman only appears in a few minutes of Mockingjay Part Two and he doesn’t do much.  But, when the film briefly features his bemused smile, you’re reminded of what a great actor the world lost when Philip Seymour Hoffman died.

Of course, the entire Hunger Games franchise has been full of great actors.  Jennifer Lawrence brought Katniss to wonderful and empowering life and one of the joys of Mockingjay Part Two is getting to see her bring the character’s story to a close.  But even beyond Jennifer Lawrence’s rightly acclaimed work, the entire cast of the franchise deserves a lot of credit.  I’ve always loved Donald Sutherland’s interpretation of President Snow and he’s at his best here.

For that matter, if there ever is another Hunger Games film or a Hunger Games spin-off, why not make it about Jena Malone’s Johanna Mason?  The way that Malone delivered her angry and frequently sarcastic dialogue was definitely one of the film’s highlights.

Regardless of whether there are any future films, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two is a worthy conclusion to a great story.

(By the way, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, December is science fiction month here at the Shattered Lens!  We hope you enjoy it!)

Previous Hunger Games Reviews:

  1. Quick Review: The Hunger Games (dir by Gary Ross)
  2. Review: The Hunger Games
  3. 44 Days of Paranoia: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  4. For Your Consideration: Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part One

Here’s The Second Trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II!


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The upcoming release of The Scorch Trials (and my total apathy to it, along with my reactions to Divergent and Insurgent) only serves to remind me how much I’m looking forward to the final installment in The Hunger Games saga and how much I’m going to miss it all when it’s over.

(And, after you watch the trailer, why not check out some of our past Hunger Games reviews — like this one or this one or this one or maybe this one.)

And finally, here’s the final Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two Trailer!


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Below, you’ll find the last Hunger Games trailer ever!

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2 comes to theaters on November 20th and I can tell you already that tears will flow from my mismatched, heterochromatic eyes when it’s all over.  Much like Sharknado, The Hunger Games has truly become a part of our shared culture and it’s hard to imagine a world with no new installments on the horizon.

Watch the trailer below and then read Leonard Wilson’s review of the first Hunger Games.

And then after you read Leonard’s take, read Leon The Duke’s review.

And then check out my review of Catching Fire.

And finally, read my thoughts on the first part of Mockingjay!

Enjoy!

 

For Your Consideration #6: Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One


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Of the three The Hunger Games films released so far, Mockingjay Part One is definitely the weakest.  That does not, however, mean that it’s a bad film.  It’s just that it doesn’t quite reach the grandeur of the first film, nor does it have the same political immediacy as the second one.  However, there’s a lot of good things to be said about Mockingjay.  Julianne Moore is perfectly cast as the charismatic but faintly sinister Alma Coin.  Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance reminds us of what a towering talent we lost earlier this year.  Donald Sutherland continues to transform President Snow into a villain for the ages.  Even though he’s only in the film for a few minutes, Stanley Tucci is perfectly vapid as Caesar Flickerman.

In fact, the only real problem with Mockingjay is that it’s so obviously a prologue to something bigger.  Much as with The Maze Runner, we watch Mockingjay with the knowledge that it’s only part one and that the majority of the issues raised by the film will not be settled until next year.  The film itself knows this as well and, as such, it lacks the immediacy and much of the excitement of the first two Hunger Games films.

But yet, with all those flaws in mind, Mockingjay still works and it’s largely because of Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Katniss Everdeen.  Whereas the first two Hunger Games films featured a Katniss who was always at the center of the action and always taking charge of any situation that she found herself in, Mockingjay features a Katniss who has far less control over her fate.  (One of the neater ironies of the series is that Katniss was actually more independent as a prisoner of President Snow than as a “guest” of Alma Coin.)  In Mockingjay, Katniss finds herself forced — with more than a little reluctance — to become the figurehead for the entire revolution and the film’s best moments are the ones in which others debate how to best “market” her.  These scenes are all about how Katniss — who is now not only a celebrity but a political icon as well — deals with losing control over her own public image.  Considering that Jennifer Lawrence’s rise to fame and acclaim occurred just as abruptly as Katniss’s, it’s probable that — even more so than in the previous films — the actress brought a lot of herself to the character.

So, yes, I would argue that Jennifer Lawrence does perhaps deserve some awards consideration for her performance in Mockingjay.  However, she truly deserves it for the consistent quality of her performance throughout the entire Hunger Games franchise.  From the very first film, Jennifer Lawrence’s performance has been iconic.  Fiercely independent without giving into the usual cinematic clichés that come with that, Katniss Everdeen has provided an alternative role model for a generation of girls who, otherwise, might have only had the likes of Bella Swan to look up to.

If that’s not worthy of being honored, then I don’t know what is.

12 Things For Which I Am Thankful This Thanksgiving


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Hello there and Happy Thanksgiving!  This is the time of year when we gather together, we look over the past few months, and we think about what we are thankful for.  A lot of people online have also suggested that Thanksgiving is the perfect time to argue with relatives who hold different political views from you.

And sure — if you want to ruin Thanksgiving for everyone, go ahead and be that person.  But for me, I’m just going to list 12 things that make me happy to be alive in 2014!

Dance1) Dancing Groot!  Actually, I’m thankful for all of the Guardians of the Galaxy but I’m especially happy that Groot is still around and he’s still dancing!

King of the Hill2) I’m thankful that Adult Swim is showing old Thanksgiving episodes of King of the Hill so that I’ll have an excuse not to watch any football games.

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3) I’m thankful for all of The Hunger Games films and I’m thankful for the strength and empowerment that Jennifer Lawrence brings to the role of Katniss Everdeen.

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4) I’m thankful that everything is awesome!

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5) I’m thankful that this is the year that everyone else finally discovered that Shailene Woodley is one of the best actresses working today.

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6) I’m thankful for Chris Pratt.  (Who isn’t?)

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7) I am especially thankful for sites like Awards Watch and Awards Circuit.  These two sites provide some of the best Oscar coverage around and, unlike Awards Daily, they manage to do it while remaining fair, honest, and entertaining.

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8) I’m thankful William J. Mann’s excellent book Tinseltown, a wonderful look back at the Hollywood of the 1920s and the unsolved murder of director William Desmond Taylor.

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9) I’m thankful for the haunting perfection of True Detective.

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10) I’m thankful for the hilarious satire of Veep.  Meyer in 2016!

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11) I’m thankful that Richard Linklater spent 12 years making Boyhood.

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12) And, most importantly, I’m thankful for you!  Thank you for visiting this site!  Thank you for reading our reviews!  Thank you for leaving comments!  Thank you for making all of this worthwhile!

And, most of all, here’s hoping you had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Love you!

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Final Trailer: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One


It’s nearly the end of the year which, of course, means that it’s time to release the latest film in which Jennifer Lawrence kicks ass.

Here is the final trailer for The Hunger Game: Mockingjay Part One!

Teaser: The Hunger Game: Mockingjay Part 1 — “Return to District 12”


Katniss returns to District 12 in this teaser for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1!

(Incidentally, from now on, I’m just going to call this movie Mockingjay because seriously, that is one long and unwieldy title…)

Mockingjay opens on November 21st!