Highly anticipated finale changes pace unevenly and still offers more political drama and preaching than action
The Hunger Games "trilogy" certainly restores a lot of faith in the young adult genre, but surprisingly this grand finale turns out to be underwhelming compared to the likes of Twilight and Harry Porter. Many were probably expecting a glorious showdown between the rebels and the Capitol with a lot of thrillingly fun action like in the first two films, but by the time the action finally came, I've already finished my popcorn. So whether or not I could still label this a popcorn flick remains a question.
Directed Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Constantine) and screenwritten by Danny Strong and Peter Craig again who did the previous instalments (but not every single one), the story continues right where it left off at the end of Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014), where it's dragged out with all politics and almost zero action. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is somehow brainwashed by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) of the Capitol and still wants to kill Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence). Katniss has made the ultimate decision to kill Snow with her own hands but some unknown reason, President Coin (Julienne Moore) refuses to put her in the frontline of their final push and attack on the Capitol. Katniss attempts a secret solo mission but Snow has laid out a full-fledged defence all over Capitol featuring hidden traps and creatures from The Hunger Games.
That sounds exciting, doesn't it? Disappointingly, most of the action is within a single act. Only one type of creature made appearance and the other part that can considered "action" is the characters running away from only a few of the thousands of traps. Not sure if the source material by author Suzanne Collins has more action, but this adaptation certainly isn't as satisfyingly intense and exciting as Catching Fire (2013), the second film where it's still set in the games.
In Mockingjay - Part 1, the pacing is slower and dragged out with the political tension, preaching by Katniss and propaganda video productions, all just to milk more money by splitting the finale into two parts like the other recent young adult film franchises. But guess what, it's still the same in this one -- there's still preaching, propaganda-making and political drama. Part 1 seems to cover only a quarter of the book, which meant that this Part 2 would bound to be a rush. The appearances by the other characters, such as Coin, Plutarch (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Prim (Willow Shields), Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and a few more like Pollux (Elden Henson) who suddenly gets a brief background story, are minimal, causing poor development and hence less emotional impact when there are key moments involving them. Even the progress of the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) feels not real (pun intended). Silent romance or whatever, it doesn't engage as hard as the previous instalments.
However, despite the uneven narrative and balance between drama and action, the film is still a good closure to this surprisingly outstanding mainstream young adult franchise. The dark, gloomy tone is maintained as it should be. The politically relatable twist and bittersweet ending are thoughtful and well intended as well. Visually it's spectacularly shot as well, especially the climax scene outside of Snow's mansion. Jennifer Lawrence's performance as the heroin has transitioned from nervy to now constantly weary, sad and ready to kill. Hutcherson's performance is probably the stronger one here as his character has become half crazy and half confused.
Malaysia censorship: Not anywhere close to being as graphically violent as the first two instalments and hence nothing was noticeably cut for the press screening. But being a P13 film here, the kissing scenes might be censored.
Second opinion: My girlfriend felt that the film's very good and emotionally engaging despite the boring final act.
Verdict: Not as action packed as many may be expecting, but maintains its higher quality and purpose over most mainstream young adult franchises.
Rating: 3 / 5
Based on: "Mockingjay" novel by Suzanne Collins
Genre: Epic sci-fi war drama
Running Time: 137 minutes
Director: Francis Lawrence
Screenwriters: Danny Strong, Peter Craig
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson
Malaysia Release Date: 19 November 2015
Local Distributor: TGV Pictures
Production: Color Force, Lionsgate, Studio Babelsberg
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