Every film should be able to stand on its own. Whoever first said this probably had not anticipated this recent trend of taking bestselling book franchises, turning them into blockbuster movie franchises, and then turning the final film in to two-part stories in the hopes of squeezing as much money out of one franchise as possible. Because not only to you have to have seen all the other movies in the franchise to have a clear idea of this world and its characters, you also have to have seen the first part of this final saga to know what the hell is going on in this particular story. So then why would I take it upon myself to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 despite not having seen Mockingjay Part 1 nor any of the other movies in The Hunger Games franchise? Well, let’s just say my friends dragged me to it because they thought it’d be a funny experience to put me through (which it kind of was, especially since I got to see the gloriously stupid trailer for Gods Of Egypt). But also, I think I was geniunely curious to see if a film like this — which relies so heavily on the audience’s knowledge of previous films — would hold up on its own at all.
As you may have noticed from some of my previous movie reviews, I hate having to summarize the plots of movies. Even more so, I don’t think I could actually summarize the plot of Mockingjay Part 2, because I only vaguely knew what was going on at the heart of this movie. Like yeah, I knew that the basis of the first Hunger Games movie was that there were kids killing each other in a kind of futuristic bloodsport, while I’m assuming in the second and third installments Jennifer Lawrence and other future people are trying to overthrow the evil government led by evil president Donald Sutherland. Because in this movie we get a lot of J-Law and her crew of futurefighters running through the wartorn streets of The Capital (which I believe is the capital of the country this movie takes place in), and fighting off machine-gun robots with the intent of killing evil president Donald Sutherland. So there you go, there’s your plot summary.
The descriptor I keep hearing in regards to this final Hunger Games movie is “dark”. Granted, I feel like the word I hear in regards to the final chapter of pretty much every final film in a recent movie franchise tends to be “dark”. I don’t know if this stems from the creators of these franchises getting restless over continually making easily digestable popcorn entertainment and eventually vying for something a bit more sinister after the first few movies, or if we just live in undeniably dark times that demand this kind of entertainment. Regardless, the Hunger Games franchise strikes me as one that was already inherently a bit morbid, since as you may know, it revolves around the idea of kids killing each other for sport while set against this grim dystopian future. Which strikes me as a bit strange that a story like this would be such a zeitgeist-capturing piece of mainstream entertainment, though I imagine this grimness might account for the fact that it seems like people have gotten a bit burned out on these movies since the opening box office grosses for Mockingjay Part 2 were good, but not earth-shattering.
And even though there were a lot of confusing things about this being my first exposure to The Hunger Games franchise, whatever enjoyment I was able to get out of it stemmed from its similarities to another film with a heart of darkness — Apocalypse Now. I don’t know if I’m the first person to make this comparison, but taken on it’s own, HG:MJ-Pt.2, much like Apocalypse Now struck me as another journey into the heart of one man’s insanity-driven quest for power, and who must be stopped at all cost. And I think if taken just on those terms, HG:MJ-Pt.2 does hold up on it’s own. And sure, there are lots of political discussions that take place between Jennifer Lawrence and Julianne Moore, as well as her sidekick (the departed and sorely-missed Philip Seymour Hoffman), which I wasn’t able to get much out of from not having seen the previous films. But just as a movie about a bunch of rogues running through a ravaged city on a quest for justice, it’s entertaining enough. There’s a particularly thrilling scene where J-Law and her cohorts are forced to fight this horde of underground sewer-mutants, which had a bit of an Alien vibe, and was surprising for me, because I had absolutely no idea if The Hunger Games world was a world in which monster-type creatures existed. Turns out it is, sort of.
Still, regardless of the fact that I was able to enjoy some of the more action-heavy, spectacle-based elements of this movie, there was a lot of pay-off that I had to sit through that I obviously couldn’t get a ton of satisfaction out of. In particular, the love triangle between Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Thor’s brother didn’t seem terrible compelling, to the point where it feels hard to call it a love triangle when it all seemed to play out in such a casual manner. But maybe because the movie does a fairly good job of calling back to earlier moments in the franchise, and maybe because I’ve been vaguely aware of this franchise just from its place in the popular consciousness, I wasn’t quite as bored or lost as I thought I’d be.
So does that mean that I am now in favor of this habit of breaking up book adaptations into as many sagas as possible? No, absolutely not. It’s dumb and manipulative towards fans, and just an illogical and unsatisfying approach to storytelling. Still, I will say that while watching this multi-million dollar, multi-part franchise come to an end, I had an alright time. And isn’t that the best I could’ve hoped for?