Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks
Director: Francis Lawrence
Disc Info: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 2
Release Date: March 22, 2016
Run Time: 111 minutes
Despite the massive success of The Hunger Games franchise, I have been highly skeptical of the young adult book adaptations since the original 2012 release. The first film gave me pause due to a remarkable number of similarities the PG-13 film shared with a far edgier R-rated Japanese film from 2000. But despite what seemed like blatant borrowing, The Hunger Games was engaging enough to draw my curiosity to the sequel. I somehow assumed that the continuation of “The Hunger Games” in the title ensured the film would finish with another climactic sequence within the games, and was extremely letdown to discover the film utilized a ‘deus ex machine’ moment to remove all significant characters from the action before the Hunger Games completed. This would be like releasing a film called Batman v Superman where the film ends just before they are about to fight. I felt cheated by the title and annoyed at the convenient removal of the only interesting dilemma in the franchise. My frustration was only carried over into the second sequel, which had no Hunger Games and no worthwhile action or plot.
Many criticized The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, saying that it wasn’t enough movie on its own and the final book should not have been split into two films. I agreed with this point until I finally watched Part 2, and now I just wish the second and third films had been combined, or better yet, been left out entirely. It may have taken two obnoxiously flawed, money-grabbing sequels, but The Hunger Games franchise finally got the last film right. Mockingjay Part 2 builds off of the emotional resonance of its storyline without losing the action elements which made the first film a success. Better yet, the film actually has an ending, unlike the last two films to come out of the franchise. I know my criticism and reviews will do little to stop every single stupid young adult novel being split up in its last installment, if only to bleed its fanbase for an additional ticket price, but I have to speak up for the sacredness of art over commerce. This film is a fantastic conclusion, but I only wish I could have entered the viewing without the bad taste left in my mouth by the last two sequels.
Jennifer Lawrence returns to one of three roles that she plays (yes, I’m including everything from David O. Russell as the same performance) as a now damaged Katniss Everdeen decides to take the fate of the rebellion into her own hands by leading a team to assassinate Panem’s tyrannical President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Along the way she leads on both of the men in the obligatory YA love triangle (thanks to Twilight, every single tired franchise with a leading female must also have two men desperately vying for her attention), though this situation is resolved without Katniss ever having to actually choose between Peeta (Josh Hutcherson, with the worst character name in recent history) or Gale (Liam Hemsworth, with a close second).
But these are all further critiques of what doesn’t work, whereas the effectiveness of this final chapter comes with the willingness to return to brutal traps and games that made the first film a success. As Katniss and her team of rebels travel to the capitol to kill Snow, they must first pass through a series of mazes and traps set out by their foe. While it is not the same as the hunger games (take note, the title still doesn’t make sense), at least there is finally some of the war-like action within this film, picking off the heroes even if they aren’t battling each other.
Beyond the actual narrative, this is also the most technically efficient of the Hunger Games films, including fantastic production design and only a few bad CGI effects (which look remarkably similar to director Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend monsters). The look of this film nearly elevates the material beyond the somewhat predictable soap opera and comic book action, forcing me to take it nearly as seriously as the film takes itself. Mockingjay Part 2 may be humorless and a bit hokey, but it was so well made that I was able to forgive the shortcomings and become swept up in the narrative more than any other installment in the franchise, possibly even the first.
The Blu-ray combo pack comes with a DVD and Digital HD copy of the film, along with over 5 hours of bonus features. The highlight of the extras comes in an 8-part making-of featurette (because apparently even the special features need to be split up) and an audio commentary track with director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson. There is also a photo gallery, artwork from the costume design, and a featurette on the Hunger Games Exhibit, which found yet another way to cash in on the faithful fanbase.
Entertainment Value: 8.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10
Historical Significance: 7/10