Friday, 20 November 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the capitol, Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow, with all she holds dear hangs in the balance. 

The theme of rebellion in the dystopian fantasy strikes a chord with teens and twenty-somethings. The brutal and bleak series that has captures the hearts of a generation comes to a brutal and bleak end. This generation which came to Katniss as young teens and have grown up through the books and have queued for the movies is now labelled as Generation K. A generation born between 1995 and 2002, generation riddled with anxiety and distrustful of traditional institutions. Like Katniss this generation  is navigating in a dark and difficult world. They grew up through 9/11, London bombings, now Paris attacks and Islamic State terrors. They see danger through their smartphones and beheadings on their Facebook pages. They are worried about getting a job, climate change and now war. However, unlike most of this generation, some of us are more first-era Millenials and grew up believing the world was our oyster and Yes we can; but quickly came to the realisation that the world is an unequal and harsh place. It's obvious that we live in difficult times and that our generation might be more aware that things aren't improving anytime soon. 
Millenials have been priced out of the housing market, unemployment is almost a given and we've been saddled with economic debt which we did nothing to accumulate. The disappointment we have about this, coupled with a genuine concern about social, political and ecological crises, has created an atmosphere of fear and anxiety. That must be why many of this generation are drawn to dystopian fiction.

So here we are, we made it to the end of The Hunger Games movies and I most definitely not enjoyed all of them. For all fans, this is the moment they've been waiting for. The films, first of which was released in 2012 have ranked in more than $2 billion worldwide at the box office and made a global star of their leading lady: Jennifer Lawrence, perfect mix of fury and resignation. In fact, The Hunger Games movies - on their own, separated from the books - have been a true phenomenon, let's be honest. It's almost weird that the four of them came out so quickly to each other. This sudden burst of popular culture that is now over.

If you haven't seen Mockingjay - Part 1 there's nothing to catch you up on the events of the first half of this movie, or for that matter, the first two movies. By now you either know what is going on, or you came to this film with a friend and you don't care anyway, so moving on. Part 1, as I wrote back then was all setup and no payoff. It was truly disappointing. Though, I really should know when a film has a "Part 1" tagged onto it, I'm not going to get a complete story out of what I came to see. Still, here viewers finally get their payoff. It's by far the most polarising instalment of the saga. They took all that time to build compelling characters in Part 1 just to allow some subtle character's moments. Indeed I liked some of the direction they took with the characters, especially Peeta, he's genuinely messed up and his character development made him as deep as he's ever been. Before he was just one of the guys in the love triangle. Plus, this time it was a similar feeling as earlier this year with Furious 7. Even though an actor we liked was no longer with us, we'd still get to see him one last time: to say goodbye. In this case it is the last time we'll see Philip Seymour Hoffman. And even though I thought I had myself mentally prepared, it's still pretty shocking. Looking at Hoffman on screen, I couldn't help but whisper to myself "Man, this guy will be missed..." 

While being "sort-of" heroic, Katniss Everdeen is frightened all the time. She spends the whole story being forced into situations she doesn't want to be in. nearly always she acted out of naive sense of what was right, starting with her decision to take younger sister Prim's place in The Hunger Games. However here, like little Frodo Baggins, crushed  by his heavy burden over the course of three films, she's not quite the same person - for the first time - she was when her adventure began. Jennifer Lawrence skillful performance holds the centre, letting everything the dialogue doesn't say play across her face. Katniss seems to understand the symbolic weight she's been asked to carry. If only it didn't have to hang so heavy... At the end of the day Katniss can only rely on one person: herself. If I'm being completely honest Katniss Everdeen, by herself, is not really an interesting person to me. We all love her and we are all rooting for her; but Katniss as a person is just boring.

In comparison to Part 1, Part 2 feels almost like non-stop action. In fact, Part 1 was a very unnecessary movie. I really don't think this final chapter needed to be split in two film, as it was very slow paced and sometimes we can find little shades of that left over in Part 2. Yes, there are parts of this film that are deathly snail paced slow, and for some parts it's working as some sequences are meant to be very serious and poignant. Nonetheless, the production values are still above grade. The series has veered far from the realm of traditional YA entertainment; for all intents and purposes, Part 2 is a war movie. This is a overly dark and sad film, there's barely a ray of hope coming through the cloud throughout the entire runtime. Halfway through we even get an elaborate underground sequence that almost feel like something out of a zombie movie but certainly not The Hunger Games. Or maybe something more out of the director's prior film, I Am Legend. At this point, you might even start to wonder how a YA audience will handle scenes scary enough to make you 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). The gradual building  of suspense during the actual siege of the Capitol and all the traps were grand, they are everything you would imagine game makers of the actual Hunger Games would make but in a city. Finally, director Lawrence does allow enough room for audiences to process what is unfolding before them, working at a classical pace for the saga. You get excited for a second and then it goes back to this crushingly slow pace which doesn't raise high stakes. At least, the script is clearly more concern with the mass-media manipulation of combat footage than what is actually happening in the trenches.

Overall most of The Hunger Games fans will find enjoyment in this last chapter of their beloved franchise as it is actually an enjoyable movie with some exciting action; but as the final instalment, it doesn't really justify everything you walked through to this moment.

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