This movie has only been in theaters for what . . . 2 months and 6 days, give or take? And I finally made it to the theater today to see it. Sort of a birthday gift to myself, you might say, since I took the day off from work and spent most of it with my sister. Or she spent it with me. Hard to say which way that coin fell. Regardless, I made it to the theater after months of trying.
I intend to review the franchise in-depth and in order someday so I won't go into much detail just yet. But a few things, naturally, stood out to me which I just had to share.
Mockingjay Part 2 is a solid and stable ending to a superb book-to-film adaptation series. It's so easy to muck up stories when they're adapted from films, and there's nothing worse really then when the adaptation sucks. Even though it's been quite a few years since I last read the series, I think the movies captured the feel very well, and that includes the darkness of the final installment.
There's a reason so many dystopian series aspire to be The Hunger Games and just as many reasons why most of them will never achieve the same level of excellence.
This series is the inception of teen dystopian fiction. Everything else in the same genre will inevitably be compared to The Hunger Games. I do it, you probably do it, we all do it, and for me, most of the other dystopian stories fall short of the emotional impact that The Hunger Games possesses.
The Hunger Games franchise takes a very real and possible concept and visualizes it for you. We like to think that we would never sink to the level of putting children in an arena to fight to death until there is only a single survivor. But we would. We already have. It's called gladiatorial fights in ancient Rome. And sacrificing Christians. It's happened, it could happen again.
So for me, The Hunger Games has always been less about entertainment and more about realizing the danger. Stay sensitive to the needs of others. Don't become like Gale and Presidents Coin and Snow who somehow think that winning the game justifies sacrificing innocent lives. Or holding a "symbolic" Hunger Games with the children of Panem. It's a crucial moment when Katniss realizes that she is about to trade one tyrant (Snow) for another (Coin). We cannot do the same things as our enemies or we are no better than them.
Mild soapbox, I know, but I'm not sorry for it.
You don't get a better cast than Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, and Natalie Dormer. I have never been a Natalie Dormer fan, but I just love her in this franchise. She adds a depth to the films that you wouldn't expect, just as Jennifer Lawrence provides a depth and authenticity to Katniss that you would never find with a different actress. Each character came to vivid life by the actor or actress who portrayed them. I can't name them all, but I wouldn't replace a single one, not Finnick or Prim or Gale or Peeta or Effie or any of them. They all fully embody the character they portray, making me believe they are who they say they are, and the world they live in is real.
I always knew the outcome of the romance. After all, I read the books, so any fallout over Katniss' romantic choice happened waaaaay back, countless years ago. And it never really touched me because I was always rooting for Peeta. I don't care if people didn't envision Josh Hutcherson in the role. I don't care if fans like Gale better. When it came down to it, in the films at least, there is an obvious solidity to Katniss and Peeta's relationship. Apart from his mind being almost destroyed and his good memories of Katniss warped and twisted, Peeta was always stable. He was the good guy, the gentle guy, the guy she went to when the nightmares threatened to overwhelm her. He offered her safety and peace and he understood the fears that would always threaten to consume her.
I think they've both seen too much to be all mushy, gooey romantic all over one another, and so Mockingjay Part 2 was accurate, I felt, in its representation of Katniss' choice. She loves Peeta, yes, but it goes deeper than that. Love doesn't always have to be about a fluttering pulse and heat in the pit of your stomach. Sometimes it's just falling asleep with your head on someone else's shoulder, knowing that you're safe and that he's there. Suzanne Collins made the right choice for Katniss and the film makers gave a terrific end to their story, happiness, yes, but also the memory of what's gone on before and the nightmares that will never quite leave.
The Whole Picture
This is the end. The franchise is over. And I'm left feeling a little sad that a series of films I love so much has reached its finale, but I'm also really happy with the end result. For some people, I know Mockingjay Part 2 moved slowly. That usually happens when a single is chopped into 2 films. But it didn't bother me for this particular set of movies. I'm so involved emotionally in the characters and the story that I could sit for hours and never want it to end. Maybe the movie is slow. I'm not one to say yes or no to that because I was captivated by every moment of it.
The series has always been hard. It's been agonizingly painful. In this final installment, the audience loses 2 beloved characters, and I cried, just as I knew that I would. Because they had become family to me. Their stories made me grieve, because they felt real.
The Hunger Games franchise and realism walk hand in hand. Which is what sets this particular franchise above the rest. I never stop to think that this isn't real. I never fall out of my suspension of disbelief. While the film is rolling, I'm there. There will never be another franchise like The Hunger Games.
Have you seen it? What are your thoughts? Did the final installment measure up to the picture you had in your head? Positives? Negatives?