So, that's Philip Seyour Hoffman's last movie. Not quite Orson Welles calling it a career by doing a voice in The Transformers: The Movie, I guess.
I kid, although seeing Hoffman on screen and realizing that this was finally it was a kick to the gut; he's terrific but underused here, in part because of that goddamned overdose that killed him. I recall reading that there were two scenes unfinished, and it looks like one was given to Woody Harrelson and just isn't the same.
Even barring that, the movie is disappointing, and I don't think I'm just saying that because I had the large Dr. Pepper more or less finished by the time this 2.25-hour movie started and my bladder seems to have shrunk in middle age, to the point where every extra scene in the epilogue section had me feeling angrier with Return of the King flashbacks. I don't think I was alone, though - there were moments in the movie when someone in the audience would laugh at how awkwardly something was handled, enough that someone else could be heard asking what was funny. Was she missing a joke? No, this is just some bad filmmaking in a series that has proven it can do better.
-- How much better? I'm glad you asked:
The Hunger Games compared to Winter's Bone and Battle Royale.
Catching Fire is neat for focusing on millennial activism.
Mockingjay - Part 1 is intriguingly cynical and makes a weakness a strength.
Shame it had to end like this.
One other bit of audience reaction note: There were two previews before the movie, and though it's the same one that's been in front of a lot of things over the last couple of months, people go absolutely nuts for the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer. Applause, palpable feeling of excitement, the works. Since I often see mainstream movies on off-hours or sometimes in places like Assembly Row where the capacity just isn't big enough to get a real crowd (I think the larger seats diffuse it, too), I don't think I've seen this reaction before. Makes me even more excited.
Folks do not have the same reaction to the Batman vs. Superman trailer. It is bad and folks are quiet after it plays.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2
* * (out of four)
Seen 20 November 2015 in the Arlington Capitol #1 (first-run, DCP)
It's been gratifying to watch the Hunger Games film series evolve from little more than a toothless take on the same material as Battle Royale to one which is at least interesting in its cynicism, to the point where I was surprised how much I anticipated this final entry in the series. Unfortunately, the final film stretches everything out beyond reason, and what was intriguing before is played out well before this episode mercifully ends.
It picks up pretty closely on the heels of Mockingjay -Part 1, when former Hunger Games victor and symbol of the rebellion Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) was nearly killed by comrade-in-arms Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), who had apparently been very effectively brainwashed when captured in the Capital. Though she recovers quickly, rebel leader Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) still chooses to mostly use Katniss as a propaganda tool, although she finds her way to the front lines, looking to be the one to kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
Has there ever been a series whose nominal protagonist did less than Katniss Everdeen? Maybe it is different in the original novels, but she has been a fairly passive player in all three previous films, becoming interesting for how she chafes at this and doubly so for how the series' young core audience reacts to her - do they realize that heroine they identify with is seldom more than a pawn, even when she seems to have some skills at manipulating public opinion herself? Logically, this would be the film where Katniss seizes control of her own destiny, but that never really happens - even when she does attempt to strike out on her own, agency is quickly snatched away from her. And yet, she never seems to confront that she is not the author of her own destiny; the filmmakers seem terrified of what should be their film's central idea.
Full review on EFC.