The current trend of dividing finales into smaller units for a greater number of cash transactions, both on the big screen (HARRY POTTER, THE HOBBIT and this series) and small (the final seasons of The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Mad Men all split their run, and their subsequent DVD box sets) has proved – seemingly without exception – to be a profitable business decision, but rarely a valuable artistic one.
The makers of MOCKINGJAY may have had a better case to to argue than any of those others, but the rule stands. Bottom line? It really didn’t need to be split into two films. Not that Part 2 isn’t any good – it is – it’s just that large portions of it are superfluous, padded with what I can only guess are fan-favourite moments (see: “mutts”). Trouble is, the largest extraneous piece is the games’ is the games themselves; The Hunger Games, however unofficially they are being held, now feel like they’re being crowbarred into THE HUNGER GAMES, and the reluctance of director Francis Lawrence, author and adaptor Suzanne Collins and their screenwriters to murder that very profitable darling results in a finale that is action-driven yet overlong, when it really just needed to get to its (excellent) point.
I’ve not read any of Collins’ books, but the problem evident in the films is that they end up in a much different – and more interesting – place than they started; a lot of people wrote off the political intrigue of the propaganda war in MOCKINGJAY PART 1 as a bit dull. Personally, I found that to be the highpoint of the saga, and certainly the most exciting idea of any YA series. Thankfully, that entire plot thread remains intact and in perfectly adequate detail. The performers know their roles inside out by now, with Donald Sutherland in particular lifting his dastardly President Snow to an operatic, delicate crescendo with palpable glee.
As the films have increased in scope, the (relatively) wanting visual effects budget has become progressively more strained, and there’s no change here. As the action moves into the vast backdrop of the Capitol, our goodwill towards the series is relied upon more and more for suspension of disbelief, but there is enough currency to cover it.
A single, jam-packed MOCKINGJAY film could have ended the story with greatness, but PART 2 dilutes that, leaving us with a finale that is simply good.
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2 is released November 19 worldwide.