review roundup

What Critics Are Saying About The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2

SS_D74-23611.dng Photo: Murray Close/Lionsgate

Four years and three films later, we’ve finally made it to the final voyage in the Hunger Games franchise: the ornithologist-friendly Mockingjay — Part Two. Cue the tears! While we’re sad to see the tumultuous post-apocalpyptic science-fiction good times end (or not, depending on your feelings about J.Law being stuck in a franchise), there’s no doubt that the critics, like Effie Trinket herself, will be out in full force, wreaking havoc with their prose. So, what are they saying, you ask? The reviews are decisively mixed, and there doesn’t seem to be an overall consensus at the present time. Read on to see what the critics are saying so far, which we’ll be updating when more reviews keep trickling in:

“The final film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s dystopian Hunger Games YA novels, Mockingjay — Part 2, is a potent antiwar saga: bleak, savage, and very modern in the depiction of an unholy union between political manipulation and showbiz. It’s impressive — but then, The Hunger Games is made of finer stuff than the standard fanboy-bait studio ‘franchises.’ Maybe it’s that a woman wrote the books (although a woman also wrote the dumb, reactionary Divergent series, so go figure). These are war movies in which no victory is orgasmic: There are no exploding Death Stars, no triumphal processions, no propagandistic symbols that aren’t inherently suspect.” —David Edelstein, New York Magazine

“What started as a game culminates in deadly serious terms with a full-scale overthrow of the system itself in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, which counters the meager helpings offered by most teen-driven entertainment with one of the heartiest character arcs ever afforded a young female protagonist. After being forced to hunt other innocent children for sport, Katniss Everdeen rallies her fellow rebels to rise up against the Capitol, and that’s not even the most revolutionary thing about this fourth and final installment in Suzanne Collins’ dystopian adventure series, which continues to implicate its own fan base in the bloodlust even as it kills off many of their favorite characters. Though domestic B.O. dipped some 20% for the previous feature, this ultra-dark, deliberately paced climax should recover somewhat even as it ventures down bleaker channels still, paying off the gamble of having stayed true to its source.” —Peter Debruge, Variety

“While we still have a right to rant about the studio’s off-putting cash grab to cleave author Suzanne Collins’ final volume in her best-selling trilogy in two, Part 2 does show off this franchise’s better side. That said, this conclusion suffers the fate of most finales, with too many wrap-it-up scenes in its final moments. It also feels stretched out at times. Randy Collins, San Jose Mercury Review

“Some might dismiss Mockingjay — Part 2 as ‘A Child’s First War-Is-Hell,’ but given that most mainstream movies have little more on their mind than selling backpacks and action figures, this is a film that dares to be about something while still delivering as a piece of straightforward entertainment. Like most movies featuring and presumably aimed at women, it’s been easy for the culture to slough off this series, but the passing of the years, and the rise of future franchise entertainments, will only burnish the reputation of The Hunger Games.” —Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

“Well, that was grim. Even for the closing entry in a series about children killing children in televised death matches, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 goes heavy on the gloom and doom. This is a movie that begins with its main character, the anguished archer Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), nursing wounds inflicted by her brain-washed lover Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and ends with someone explaining to a baby why the nightmares will never stop. Gone is the costume-ball pageantry that used to brighten the corners of Panem. Even Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci, once the preening clowns of this dystopian universe, can’t crack a smile. In fact, the only real humor is of the gallows variety, provided by Donald Sutherland, injecting some crooked levity into his role as the big bad. Awash in a depressive shade of perpetual blue, Mockingjay — Part 2 out-Nolans Christopher Nolan in the race to see just how dark a PG-13 tentpole can get before the audience itself revolts.” —A.A. Dowd,  A.V. Club

“The first two films managed the challenge of visually presenting the books’ violence without tipping into territory their target demo couldn’t handle. Mockingjay, though, strays too far into darkness: With its political power struggles and prodigious body count, all rendered in a thousand shades of wintry greige, the movie feels less like teen entertainment than a sort of Hunger Games of Thrones. The acting and production values are still well above grade, and Lawrence skillfully holds the center, letting everything the skeletal dialogue doesn’t say play across her face. Like the arrow-slinging, empire-saving Joan of Archery she’s portraying, she understands the symbolic weight she’s been asked to carry here. If only it didn’t have to hang so heavy.” —Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

Mockingjay — Part 2 deserves credit for incorporating real-world themes like media manipulation, terrorism and power vacuums, but its somber-faced, hand-wringing treatment can be tough to take seriously. It’s the wrong tone for a series that, at bottom, is still just an entertaining spectacle — and this movie isn’t nearly entertaining enough.” —Rafer Guzman, Newsday

“This might be the most downbeat blockbuster in memory, a film that starts out pitiless and goes downhill from there, save for a fleeting glimmer of hope in the final moments. It’s a bold statement about the unforgiving nature of war, unashamedly political in its motives and quietly devastating in its emotional effect.” —Tom Huddleston, Time Out London

Mockingjay — Part 2 is a grim, dark, trippy, violent and sometimes just plain bizarre journey, which makes for a fitting if uneven conclusion to a film series that’s always been weird. (So weird I’d say the Twilight movies, which feature vampires and wolves and humans getting into all sorts of soap opera-y entanglements, might be less insane than the madness of The Hunger Games.” —Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

“‘It gets a little tedious after all these years,’ admits Katniss Everdeen about her life’s obligations in her final line of dialogue after 547 accumulated minutes of The Hunger Games films. It’s hard not to agree with her, nor to imagine that there are too many people — Jennifer Lawrence included — who will be sorry to see this overdrawn series end. Not too many, that is, except for the folks at Lionsgate, who have tallied $2.315 billion in worldwide box-office grosses from their three previous adaptations of Suzanne Collins’ blockbuster book trilogy and can count on raking in another $800 million, give or take, from this pervasively grim final edition to the series. But this cash cow is done. What started off onscreen as a lush, outdoorsy, futuristic gladiatorial adventure has, to close things out, become a dark, often stifling tale of rebel insurrection that takes place largely underground or in dangerous urban ruins.” —Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“What can be said about the wrap-up? Mainly, it’s dark. Lawrence’s Katniss, out to assassinate the heartless yet elegant President Snow (Donald Sutherland), spends many brooding minutes of screen time in literal shadow. Accompanied by her best fellas, the brainwashed-but-feeling-better Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and how’s-my-hair huntsman Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Katniss mucks around in one subterranean low-lighting setting after another. Then, at one point, thanks to some pretty slick computer-generated imagery, she mucks around in a big hurry, as she and her fellow freedom fighters elude a rising tide of sloshing, flooding black oil. The only reliable source of light in Mockingjay 2 appears to be Sutherland’s beard.” —Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

“The last two films are poorly edited and chock-full of filler, such as lingering close-ups of Elizabeth Banks’ weird and wild eyelashes as oddball fashion plate Effie Trinket. There’s something to be said about the financial boon of a pair of Mockingjay films that clock in at more than four hours together, though from a filmmaking standpoint, there’s a single, really good 2½-hour movie in there. What also doesn’t help is trying to have more endings than The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King — four aren’t needed when just one good one will do. Every journey has to come to a close at some point, and while it’s not a perfect exit for Katniss, it’s one where she gets to put her bow, arrow and big heart to good use.” —Brian Truitt, USA Today

“The casting of Lawrence as the anchor of this franchise now seems like a stroke of prescient genius — her talent has blossomed and matured in ways no one could have predicted — and the saga’s final chapter brings the focus back to her, reminding us of everything Katniss has lost and suffered as a result of trying to protect her younger sister in the first installment. She gets a lovely, bittersweet send-off, and the actress makes us believe in all the pain and experience etched across her face – the toll of an unwitting warrior tasked with saving the world. When Lionsgate announced they would be splitting Mockingjay in two, the move felt like a cash grab. But after seeing the new movie, the decision makes sense. Mockingjay – Part 2 really is just that: The second half of the film you started watching last year. Here is your reward for having stuck with The Hunger Games. Be careful what you wish for.” —Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald

“The pop pleasures of the early installments (the best of which was Catching Fire) are gone in the gray-and-gloomy part two of Mockingjay. All the color and vibrancy of the series has been drained away; a sizable chunk of action takes place in the sewer as Katniss and a band of rebels, navigating various traps, stealthily storm toward Snow, with plans to assassinate him … Instead, the film is, well, dull. If Donald Sutherland is the most bubbly thing in your teenage sci-fi dystopia (and he is, by a mile), you may have stretched the seriousness too far. Instead, a feeling of time passing The Hunger Games by pervades. What should have been one movie was stretched into two. Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died nearly two years ago but remains here as the rebel leader Plutarch, is a ghostly, abbreviated presence. And Lawrence, still the magnetic center of the saga, can elevate the material only so much. Four years clearly wasn’t fast enough for The Hunger Games. Lawrence outgrew this stuff long ago.” —Jake Coyle,  Associated Press

“Remember that line from the first Hunger Games film: ‘May the odds be ever in your favor’? Yeah, well, that luck has run out. Maze-running guys, divergent gals — the world of depressing, young-adult, sci-fi movies is getting as crazy and crowded as a Republican presidential field. So which saga is this again? What makes The Hunger Games and its heroine so special? Let Johanna, its glummest character, remind us. Oh, right. This is that series … Of course, the truly devoted may still be moved to watch this epic finally come to a close. I even heard a few sniffles at an early screening. But for the rest of us? It’s strictly from hunger.” —Stephen Whitty, New York Daily News

Review Roundup: Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Pt. 2