Monday, December 7, 2015

MM: Mockingjay, Part 2

(I'm going to experiment with branching out a bit. "MM" stands for "Movie Monday". Each Monday I'm going to post my standard movie review. Stay tuned for what comes on the other days.)

And so the Hunger Games trilogy/quadrilogy (depending on how you count it) comes to a close. I must admit that I was nervous about this movie. But it came off extremely well. The writing and directing were much more solid in Part 2, pulling everything together into a more coherent whole. And, of course, you can't look past the acting. Everyone continued to be fantastic, but Josh Hutcherson showed that he is really maturing past his "child actor" roots, and Julianne Moore was the perfect politician (the scene with her proposal to the Victors near the end gave me chills).

As I mentioned, I had a great deal of trepidation going into this movie. I did not like the ending in the book. A huge part of Mockingjay revolved around Katniss' deteriorating mental state, and Part I already failed to properly capture that. I also felt that Part I failed to set up the conflict with President Coin properly, which was critical to pulling off the climax.

The movie managed to overcome all my fears. While I'm still not happy with the ending (no spoilers!), some subtle changes improved it significantly. By externalizing a huge amount of Katniss' internal conflict onto the much more obvious symptoms of Peeta, it made the conflicts more plain and immediate. And, wow, they nailed President Coin.

I could go into a lengthy analysis of what I did and did not like about the movie, particularly as compared to the book. But that would mostly just lead to arguments for some, boredom for most, and a wall of text that few would wade through. Let me just hit a few high points:

  • I'm not sure what exactly it was, but the scene at the mines lost a lot of the emotional punch for me. Particularly with regards to the changes the war had wrought in Gale.
  • Similarly, the triangle started getting very lopsided. It was pretty clear halfway through the movie what Katniss' choice was going to be. The tension in the book was maintained far better.
  • The action of the fight through the Capitol was a slog of random encounters in the book. It was a tense series of events in the movies that was almost a montage. I much preferred the movie here.
  • I far preferred the death of Snow in the movie. I just felt that the staging was better, and it had a better impact.
  • There is apparently some dramatic wailing and gnashing of teeth among fans over the epilogue. Personally, I preferred it. I like the message that people can heal, even if some scars never fade.
The Hunger Games is, of course, an excellent example of a strong female character. And, more than that, multiple strong female characters, many of whom are strong without having to be violent about it. The Bechdel Test is easily passed. The Mako Mori Test is obviously passed (and if you take the series as a whole, it is passed for multiple women). I'm not sure I'd want to point to this movie as being excellent feminist literature in its own right, but I'm certainly comfortable pointing to it as an example that you can have a blockbuster action movie that also has a strong feminist message.

I do recommend seeing this movie, assuming that you have seen the rest of the series. If you haven't seen the rest of the series, then I highly recommend seeing them all. The acting alone is worth the price of admission. Jennifer Lawrence is obviously the standout. But it's worth pointing to each and every actor. I think that this may be one of Woody Harrelson's best roles, and he rescued Haymitch who, in my opinion, had turned into kind of a cipher by the third book. And Donald Sutherland pulled off that remarkable feat of somehow being more the character than was in the book (q.v. Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman in the Harry Potter movies).

I will miss these characters, and expect to revisit them often.

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