‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2’ review: As always, the book is better than the movie

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Mockingjay – Part 2 review in a nutshell

It’s a mostly faithful adaptation in terms of the plot. Nevertheless, it feels empty because all the subtext that makes the book great is gone.

Click here or scroll below for where to watch Mockingjay – Part 2.

Update: You can also check out my reviews of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay – Part 1 here.

Movie synopsis

In this final installment of The Hunger Games series, the rebellion has blown up into a full-scale war. Katniss goes to the Capitol with a unit of rebels from District 13 on a mission to assassinate President Snow in an epic battle that will test her beyond everything she has encountered.

Mockingjay – Part 2 movie review (with spoilers)

Mockingjay – Part 2 follows the book pretty much faithfully — except for all the subtext that they could not (dare not?) translate to screen, which Darren Franich from Entertainment Weekly explains in a brilliant analysis. (I may have enjoyed reading that analysis even more than I did watching the movie itself.) I didn’t consciously think of half the things that he mentioned, but when he put it in words, it is obvious in retrospect. In fact, it might be why I felt that Mockingjay – Part 1 was bland and lacking flavour even though it was also a close adaptation.

For instance, I couldn’t pinpoint why there is a marked difference between Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Plutarch Heavensbee, and Plutarch in the books, until he points out that “Book-Plutarch thrills over the snake oil he is selling; Movie-Plutarch seems more amused that people love snake oil so much.” No wonder I like Book-Plutarch better: Rather than someone who puts on a show while snickering at the audience’s gullibility, he revels in the process of catering to the audience’s gullibility.

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Franich also points out: “There is an entire war fought in Mockingjay, but our lead character experiences it from a distance. When Katniss finally joins the fight, no action she takes ever proves especially meaningful for her revolution.”

I didn’t like Mockingjay the book very much because of how depressing it was, and how many people died. I dislike the second half of the book especially, because of the *entire waste of lives* that was her suicide mission into the Capitol, and she never completes her mission anyway.

The movie kind of lessens that impact, as they cut out the training and bonding period, so you don’t get to know the members of the Star Squad as well as you do in the books. So when they all start dying one after the other, in the span of probably less than 15mins in the movie, they feel like easily expendable characters, except for Finnick. But I never consciously considered how ineffective she was when she was fighting on the ground, because she was so successful at marketing the revolution through the propos.

Katniss and the Star Squad in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2
Katniss and the Star Squad in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Even in the very first piece of action she sees in District 8, her shooting down of the Capitol planes caused them to crash into the hospital, killing everyone in it. It was something I never liked to linger on, because I thought it was just to show that accidents happen in war, but now I see that author Suzanne Collins deliberately meant for that to happen. And of course, the propos that she does immediately after that turns out to be one of her most effective. Which is ironic, because it was her actions, rather than the Capitol’s, which led to the deaths of the people in the hospital.

One thing I disagreed with Franich about is that he used to hate Gale, until he reread Gale’s characterisation in the books. Whereas for me, I never forgot why Gale became the vengeful person he was. I empathise with Gale’s reasoning, and I can’t fault him for that, which is why it was so upsetting when what could have been his trap kills Prim in the end, severing for him all possible ties with Katniss. Franich believes that “everything we have heard about Gale in Mockingjay proves that he would have killed Prim, and all those children, for the greater glory of the revolution”. But I don’t believe he would have killed Prim. Gale was someone who protected his own, and he loved Prim like a sister.

Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2
Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

But this is supposed to be a review of the movie, not a review of an analysis of the movie. Honestly, I don’t have much to say: Other than the above-mentioned shortcomings, I feel it’s a satisfactory end that unfolds much like it does the book, down to the epilogue ending and the last words spoken. A lot of people who’ve never read the books don’t feel the same though, because they were expecting a full-blown war that Katniss would be involved in, when she would come into the mantle of “hero” she seems set up to be. In short, the complaints of people who read and didn’t like Mockingjay — except these moviegoers didn’t read it, so they didn’t know.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2
Katniss being basically useless in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Where to watch Mockingjay – Part 2

Streaming services: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is not on Netflix Singapore or US, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu. You can try Netflix in other countries like Canada, Australia, India and Japan though.

Rent/Buy: Get it on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, FandangoNOW, Microsoft, Redbox

(Most of these rental/purchase links aren’t for Singapore viewers, so if you’re in Singapore and you really want to watch it, you’ll need a VPN if you don’t already have one. ? I’m using NordVPN, which costs US$125.64 for 3 years. It’s even cheaper if you have a Shopback or Rakuten account (formerly known as Ebates) and activate your cashback before your purchase.)

My feelings about Mockingjay the book

Since we’ve established that the book is better, let me now talk about the book itself, which is really more interesting to discuss anyway, as seen in me spending more than half my “movie review” above talking about Franich’s extremely detailed thesis about the book and movie differences. I have a ton of emotions about how the book ended, and all of them give me pangs.

When I first read Mockingjay, it was so brutal and depressing that I never wanted to read it again. At least, not the last 200 pages, where people we have gotten to know and love begin dropping like flies. (Suffice to say, I wasn’t looking forward to this final film installment at all.) But even with all those deaths, I would have liked the book a whole lot more if Suzanne Collins had spared Finnick. Prim could still have died, but if Finnick lived, I would be able to stomach the ending better, because I love him that much. But to rob him of the rest of his life, just when things seem to be picking up for him after years of sexual slavery from the Capitol, is a freaking twist in the knife to my gut.

Poor Finnick! ?

And then Prim, probably the most compassionate character in the books, had to die on top of Finnick, *and* ruin Gale’s relationship with Katniss to boot, while sending Katniss into a tailspin of despair that she took years to recover from. (If Prim hadn’t died, I would have felt more conflicted about who Katniss ended up with, but as it is, I understand and empathise with her choosing Peeta in the end.)

Which brings me to Gale. My heart truly breaks for him. Not just because he loved Katniss more than she loved him; but because he couldn’t deal with the guilt of perhaps planning the trap that caused Prim’s death, and he knew Katniss would never be able to look at him in the same way again, so he solved both their problems by essentially running away and taking himself right out of her life. He didn’t even say goodbye! To cut off all contact with her, after both have relied on each other for so long, and loving her, makes me so sorry for him I don’t even know where to begin.

Gale and Katniss
Gale and Katniss back when their dynamic was intact in Catching Fire

It’s his own self-imposed exile and tragedy, and therefore feels worse than the ones forced upon Katniss and Peeta (and Finnick and everyone else) where things happened to them beyond their control. If Gale wasn’t so full of a fiery passion for vengeance, and if the odds were in his favour that Prim wasn’t among the rebel medics, he could have survived the war perhaps not with Katniss’ love, but still her friendship. Now he has neither, and he lost Prim too, whom he also loved as a sister.

I suppose with all the people Suzanne Collins was so unhesitant about killing off, I should be happy that Haymitch made it out. I would feel the same way about the third book if Haymitch had died instead of Finnick.

Then again, this is a book series about children from poor districts being forced to kill other children for sport while well-off citizens in a dictatorship cheer on their favourites — a thing that happened for 75 years before something came along to shake up the status quo. If it was tied up in anything near resembling happily in a bow, then something has gone wrong in the commentary somewhere.

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