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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/22/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/28/2016
It's very easy to say bad things about The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, and trust me, we will, but you have to admire the film's opening. Given that the three book series has been stretched into four movies, it would be very easy to accuse those behind the film of dragging their feet or beating around the bush. But, the movie picks up just after the ending ofThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 and doesn't add any extraneous details to the beginning. (Of course, this approach backfired for me, as I've only seen Part 1 once, and didn't remember all of the minutia.) However, hitting the ground running, doesn't guarantee a satisfying conclusion.
As noted above, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 begins right where the last film ended. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is in District 13 with other rebels who are prepared to fight back against The Capitol. However, she is still distraught that the brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) still wants to see her dead. Katniss joins a group of resistance fighters who travel to District 2 in preparation for invading The Capitol. She and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) will be a part of a group who are going to infiltrate the city in order to shoot propaganda videos which will be broadcast to the masses. Peeta, who is fighting to regain control over himself, also joins this group. Once inside the city, Katniss and her colleagues soon learn that those who once oversaw The Hunger Games have turned their talents to the streets and deadly traps are everywhere. Will Katniss be able to reach President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and get her revenge.
While The Hunger Games books and movies have been devoured by fans worldwide for the characters and the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, at their heart, these are science-fiction/adventure stories. And when viewed that way, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 is somewhat successful. The major action set-pieces, namely the flood and the underground chase, are handled quite well. For those scenes, especially the latter, Director Francis Lawrence calls upon his experiences with movies likeI Am Legend and creates action-packed sequences, which don't go too far given the target audience and the PG-13 rating. And as this is the last film in the series, characters actually die in these scenes, which adds a surprising amount of suspense.
However, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 also serves as a prime example of being stuck between a book and a hard place. When novels make their journey to the silver screen, changes always occur, often wholesale changes. But, with something as big as The Hunger Games, the producers know that if they stay too far, they will risk alienating the core audience. Thus, they were stuck with the anti-climatic ending to the film, and thus, the series. The Hunger Games films are far from perfect, but they delivered a decent amount of action and intrigue. Therefore, the quiet and humble ending to the film simply doesn't feel right. The storylines are wrapped up, but it isn't satisfying. (And I corroborated with those who read the novel that the movie is very similar to what's found in the book.) I understand why the story ended as it did, but I think that I would have preferred a sudden ending, rather than a somber prologue.
One of my main issues with The Hunger Games was that it played as if it assumed that everyone in the audience had read the book and therefore, details weren't necessary. I had a similar reaction to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, as a lot happens in the film, but I wasn't always exactly sure why it was happening. As stated, the movie contains some good action scenes, but it the suddenly quiet ending nearly negates everything that came before it. The acting in the film is solid and I like how Lawrence continued to jump into her Katniss role, despite having found success and awards in more dramatic roles. I've been pretty hard on The Hunger Games films, beginning with accusing the first one of ripping off other things and then laying into this one for its weak ending, but overall, the movies can serve as a gateway into more serious sci-fi for young viewers. Chopping up the series into four films, which were released a year apart, certainly dampened the drama -- I think that one day soon I'll watch all four back-to-back and see if that changes my mind.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 insists on giving the female characters wacky hairstyles on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. Overall, the movie skews to dark and we get a lot of muted tones here, but the image is never overly dark and when brighter colors appear, they look good. The picture shows a high level of detail and the depth works quite well. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 6.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would hope, the action sequences sound great, as the track delivers powerful subwoofer action combined with detailed stereo and surround sound effects. The crowd scenes in the third act provide nice stereo and surround effects in which we can pick out individual sounds.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 Blu-ray Disc contains an assortment of extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson. "Pawns No More: Making The Hungers Games: Mockingjay - Part 2" (143 minutes) is an 8-part, feature-length documentary which is actually longer than the movie itself. The piece offers comments from the cast and creative team (and a rep from Scholastic books!) as well as a nice amount of on-set and behind-the-scenes footage. The speakers discuss the script adaptation and the challenge of concluding the series. From there, we see design concepts and set construction, makeup and costumes, location shooting around the world, special effects and stunts, post-production, and finally a reflection on the series. In "The Hunger Games: A Photographic Journey" (10 minutes) photographer Murray Close discusses his career and then describes his job as a still photographer on the film set. "Cinna's Sketchbook: Secrets of the Mockingjay Armor" (9 minutes) has Costume Designers Bart Mueller and Kurt Swanson walking us through the design of the armor and how the drawings were presented in the film. "Panem on Display: The Hunger Games: The Exhibition" (2 minutes) walks us through a promotional piece which was done for the film. "Jet to the Set" (42 minutes) is an episode of what appears to be a series of some sorts in which two women visit real film locations.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long