Well, that’s disappointing. After defying expectations with three rich, thoughtful movies, the “Hunger Games” saga comes to a fizzling conclusion in “Mockingjay – Part 2,” an overlong half-story that doesn’t provide the satisfying resolution it promised. Every archer misses the target now and then, but it’s a particular letdown when the arrow that goes wide is the final one.
Splitting the third book in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy into two parts, a move that reeked of greed but that we accepted after “Mockingjay – Part 1” turned out so well, now seems to have been a mistake after all. Again directed by Francis Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer), Part 2 picks up right where we left off: in underground District 13, where Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has been brainwashed into thinking Katniss is the enemy, and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is recovering from the time Peeta manifested his new political views by strangling her.
All that’s left, storywise, is for the rebel armies to overtake the Capitol and give the despot President Snow (Donald Sutherland) his fair trial (haha j/k), and for Katniss to choose either Peeta or Gale (Liam Hemsworth). On that latter point, despite having plenty of time in which to do it, the movie fails to make it clear why Katniss ultimately rejects the suitor she rejects. It’s not even clear she has rejected him till later, when he’s not around and we realize, oh, “goodbye” meant “GOODBYE.”
Jennifer Lawrence continues to be a strong, grounded presence as Katniss. No one has done better, more convincing, more emotional acting in a movie franchise than she has. Josh Hutcherson is impressive in this final installment, too (a first for him), giving Peeta some depth as he struggles to regain control of his mental state. There’s not enough Effie (Elizabeth Banks), and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) doesn’t do much, but we do get a few last moments with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died before the film was finished.
The film is occasionally exciting when Katniss, Gale, Finnick (Sam Claflin), and their fellow soldiers work their way toward the center of the Capitol in streets that have been booby-trapped with Hunger Games devices. (I continue to marvel at Collins’ cleverness in finding a way to squeeze the Games into all three books.) Told by insurrectionist President Coin (Julianne Moore) that she’s more useful as a propaganda tool than as a soldier, Katniss has to do what she does best: disregard instructions and follow her own plan. There’s a brief but horrific sequence in a sewer involving the Capitol’s “mutts” (something else that that movies never explained), which in this case take the form of zombies, or something.
But the action is sparse, and the downtime is often listless. Even more wind gets sucked out of the sails at the story’s anticlimactic finale and the dragged-out resolution (though this was a flaw in the book, too). As good as Part 1 was, the whole enterprise would have been better served if the book had been adapted into just one movie, even a three-hour one. Hopefully they’ll learn from this mistake when they reboot the series in 2025.
C+ (2 hrs., 17 min.; )