Saturday, November 21, 2015

Theatrical Review: Mockingjay- Part 2

Date: Saturday November 21, 2014
Time: 12pm
Location: Pocono Movieplex
Party: 2 (my mom and I)

Director: Francis Lawrence
Type: young adult, drama, book-to-movie adaptation, action, sci-fi

Katniss Everdeen- Jennifer Lawrence
Peeta Mellark- Josh Hutcherson
Gale- Liam Hemsworth

Plutarach- Philip Seymour HoffmanFinnick Odair (District 4)- Sam Claflin
Beetee (aka "Volts") (District 3)- Jeffrey Wright

Haymitch- Woody Harrelson
Effie Trinket- Elizabeth Banks
Prim Everdeen- Willow Shields
Caesar Flickerman- Stanley Tucci
President Snow- Donald Sutherland
Johanna Mason (District 7)- Jena Malone
District 13 President Coin- Julianne Moore
Katniss's bodyguard Boggs- Mahershala Ali
Propaganda director Cressida- Natalie Dormer
Propaganda crew member Messalla-Evan Ross
Propaganda crew member Castor- Wes Chatham
Propaganda crew member Pollux- Elden Henson

Duration: 137 minutes (+ trailers)

Opening Remarks and Trailers:

We were the only ones in the theater when we arrived. 2-3 people came in after the trailers, but they slipped in through the back so we only heard them come in.

I'm not sure if I've asked this yet, but are we going to have to suffer through that Superman/Batman trailer EVERY SINGLE TIME we go to the movies? The god-awful excessive promotion of this is actually talking me OUT of seeing this movie.
That was my last thought before the movie itself started.

Before that, we had some pretty awesome looking trailers for "Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass" (although I have to ask if there was any conceivable reason to make the Mad Hatter a lead character if he wasn't being played by Johnny Depp), "Allegiant" (why the hell are they making this into two movies, again? It looks fairly complete to me...), "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (we got to see Leia this time! I'm also theorizing whether the female lead and Oscar Isaac's characters are Han & Leia's twins... I'm pretty sure she's one of them, with him, it's just wishful thinking, lol).

Then there was a brand new movie called "God of Egypt" which looked SUPER AMAZING. The effects especially. Gerard Butler appears to be playing the villain God, Set. And Robert Sheehan (who played Simon in "City of Bones") might be one of the main characters. I just hope it really is as amazing as it looks and it doesn't wind up being that waste-of-time "Clash of the Titans" remake.


The End of Another Franchise

For my previous "Hunger Games" reviews, follow the links below... if that kind of thing strikes your fancy:
Now onto business...

I was just thinking the other day how, once this movie is done, the only YA franchise we have left is Veronica Roth's series... and that's going to be agonizingly carried out over the next couple years. Those who've read "Allegiant" know why- I'm not going to dispense with any spoilers until that time comes (in 2018).
Beyond that, we'll have a bunch of "Star Wars" movies, the rest of "50 shades" (2017 cannot come fast enough... assuming "50 Shades Darker" follows in the same footsteps of the first movie, which I enjoyed far more than the book. Although the 2nd book is my favorite in the series by far), and a bunch of John Green adaptations ("Paper Towns" got horrible reviews, but I loved the book so I still want to see it).

What'll we do without any serieses of book-to-adaptations? Who knows?
But what's for sure is that the ending of every franchise is a celebration with some bittersweet aspects. Most of them are in the realm of "crying cuz it's over, but happy that it happened"... Harry Potter and Twilight were that for me, easily.

With "Mockingjay" and the Hunger Games, even before going into the movie, I know for a fact it will be bittersweet because the impending victory (this is not a SPOILER, by the way. Find me one franchise where the rebels/good guys don't win, then we'll talk) comes after some very drastic and heartwrenching sacrifices.
Far worse than losing Fred Weasley, Tonks and Lupin in "Harry Potter"- but to be fair, those deaths were shown so quickly that we barely had time to grieve. Of all people, Snape was probably the one person we were allowed time to mourn. [And I proceeded through the series all over again, books & movies, so I could truly appreciate him and his actions].

And much to my continued annoyance while reading the book, one of those casualties/deaths DID NOT INCLUDE PEETA.
I can be pretty rabid about wanting someone killed off in a series (film, TV, book, etc.). Especially villains. But also when something appears to be a dead end with no hope of redemption. This was not assisted by the fact I shipped Katniss and Gale for the series and something happens that blows up (figuratively AND literally) any possibility of that. After Bella married Edward and become a vampire, I didn't think there was a more final way to put an end to a YA novel coupling. Any member of Team Jacob reading this would probably laugh and point "NOW YOU KNOW HOW WE FEEL."

More on Shipping YA book/movie couples

Excluding "Twilight" (Team Edward for life!), it really does suck when the girl always ends up with the guy she just met opposed to the one she knew her whole life. Clary & Simon had that same issue in the "Mortal Instruments" series, but then again, that whole cockblock [not a typo!] that was Clary & Jace being fooled into believing they were brother and sister... I'm sorry, that was incredibly stupid. I enjoyed the series, but it had so many annoying roadblocks keeping Clary & Jace apart that I almost gave up on a number of times.
The only example of friends winding up together was "Some Kind of Wonderful"- it STILL does not make up for Andy & Ducky not happening in "Pretty in Pink."

Anyway, the movies made me like Peeta more than I did in the books- where I think I was more indifferent towards him. The credit, without a doubt, goes to Josh Hutcherson for just being so good at being likeable. So going in, I could only hope that his performance would save me again. That I wouldn't spend most of the movie wishing him dead because the grip that tracker-jacker torture had on him could not be broken.

Onto The Movie itself...

After all that build up, I hope that I at least have enough to talk about to fill up the rest of the post.
We re-enter the movie maybe a couple weeks after the previous part ended. Katniss is just getting her voice back after Peeta nearly choked her to death. And I spend a great deal of the movie white-knuckled, shell-shocked and in that old "Mockingjay-death-to-Peeta" state of mind.
Being with him in those scenes was so difficult. I don't have a lot of memory of the book at this point, but I didn't remember Katniss actually taking my side and really wanting nothing to do with him. Heck, there's a scene where President Coin, Plutarch and Haymitch make her talk to him when she really doesn't to. The madness comes out when they first send Prim to talk to him, which I don't remember from the book, but if it was made for the movie, it made sense. First because he knows and trusts her and second because we need more Prim screen time to make up for later on.

Spoilers from this point forward...
And just prepare for me to go into length about the characters... it's always best to read the books first.
In previous book-to-movie adaptations (although most of this was "Twilight"), I loathed when they spent time away from the protagonists and spent time with the villains or side characters. But in this case, I enjoyed President Snow's additional screen time to see more of what was going on.
There was an intriguing "dinner party" scene where he offs somebody in a way much more subtle than Darth Vadar choking out the creator of the Death Star. Snow being the ruthless ruler he is, it's not surprising that he's dealt with a fair number of assassination attempts. But I enjoyed the fact (not sadistically, but for storytelling purposes) that this was starting to take a toll on him. And he could very well die soon of his own fruition.

I don't know if I would have found as much comfort in Plutarch's presence in the story had Philip Seymour Hoffman not died. But whatever presence he had was grounding and comforting, especially when a lot of it was bleak and tense. The CGI renderings of him to fill in the blanks he left behind after his death were so live-like, I'm welling to bet they were bittersweet for greater fans of his .
And his absence also gave Woody Harrelson a chance at having a great additional scene that made me grateful for both their characters. Haymitch had the least screen time in this film than any other before it, but he made each one really count for something.

Jena Malone appears a small number of times as Johanna, being somewhat of the antithesis/voice of reason within District 13's rebel stronghold. Although her most memorable moments were stealing Katniss's morphine (anyone who knows Johanna from "Catching Fire" or reading the books, this was one of those "well-of-course") moments and slowly forming a Joker grin while listening to Katniss's plan at the wedding.

To me, having Finnick and Annie's wedding in the middle of this movie felt a little contrived and pointless. I didn't know whether or not he was going to die in an upcoming scene and if he had, what was the point of all this? Just to take us away from the bleak nature of this movie? To give Katniss and Prim one final nice scene together?
It wasn't nearly as gratifying, heartwarming or exciting as Bill and Fleur's wedding in part 1 of the "Deathly Hallows."

One review I remember mentioned something about Stanley Tucci having one last scene as Caesar Flickman that was memorable... when I saw it, I figured I misread it as being something more than it was. But somehow I missed the line "he manages to end his brief appearance with the single most insincere smile his toady of a character has ever smiled." Actually, until that moment, I always liked his character. Then I freaking HATED him or wished he was joking about Katniss being horrible.

After the wedding, a few scenes of Katniss fighting to storm the Capitol, and Peeta continuing to deteriorate my opinion of him, we have Katniss going with Boggs, Gale, Finnick and her propaganda team to infiltrate the Capitol.
Which obviously is tricky business because there are booby traps everywhere, even those not marked on their portable electronic map.
Plus the fact Peeta was shipped to them. I don't remember that in the book either, him joining their squad in this way, but either way, it felt like foul play was at work. That coupled with Boggs telling Katniss that Coin wanted to save Peeta from the arena instead of her because she wants to be in control of everything. Losing him was a little bit of a game-changer, but I also hated it because I had started to like him at this point.

Peeta lashes out only one other time, killing one person whose name escapes me, which made me feel a bit better. After a while, I started to ignore the ticking bomb in the room and focus on the other dangers ahead. I screamed once and it was at something that wasn't even deadly. The only way for them to go day to day was to keep asking/answering whether something was real or not. Apparently, the tracker-jacker torture involved using images that were real and some that weren't. And that same Peeta I liked in the first couple movies was back.
I still don't regret feeling any of that negativity, though.

Gale and Peeta actually got to have a scene together, which was interesting, but much shorter than the whole Edward/Jacob conversation in the tent in "Eclipse." They ultimately agree that Katniss will choose whomever when the war is all over.
But being on Team Gale, I still feel letdown about how he and Katniss parted ways. The scene was barely a blimp in the radar of the movie. He didn't know whether the final assault on the Capitol was his issue (in the book, I think he knew he was behind it) and she simply said goodbye to him. They never saw each other after that. At least Jacob, however annoying he was at times, contributed to the plot and was around after the main story ended.

All the boobytrap scene had really great CGI and special effects. But they were also terrifying, more than anything in either arena from the first two movies. In the sewers, there were all these monsters looked like the demons in the cave from the "Half-Blood Prince." The action happened so fast you almost didn't know who was who. But the fact Peeta got involved and actually attacked them (rather than his fellow humans) was great to see from his character. It let me know things would be okay from that point forward.
But losing one character here was particularly difficult. It almost felt unnecessary, but considering how they were surrounded, there really was no way out.
Besides the Peeta-turn-around, the one good thing that came out of going underground was giving Pollux a time to shine. I fouind him very endearing in Part 1 and having him lead the squad through the tunnels he knew like the back of his hand- that was great, and he did it without saying a word. (He's an Avox- had his tongue cut out by the Capitol as punishment).

There's a scene where everyone left ducks into a fashion boutique where they hid for the night. I believe this was supposed to the one scene Effie had in the entire "Mockingjay" novel. Instead, this went to Tigress, a former "Hunger Games" beautifier that Snow had tired because she wasn't pretty anymore. The only thing left at this point is for the squad to split up with Katniss and Gale going undercover.

Snow makes an announcement that all the Capitol denizens need to hide in his mansion. So I'm rolling my eyes thinking this is a human-shield tactic. Then at the front, they're ordered to hand all their children over. More eye rolling. Parachutes (like those with sponsor gifts in the Hunger Games) come down and I figure out very quickly that they are not a good thing.  Everything turns around very quickly. So much that you almost have no time to react. Barely even have time to notice Prim and scream when she's killed in one of the bombings.

In this part of the book, Katniss is rendered mute from the shock of it all. She figures out very quickly what happened and who was responsible. But I suppose they needed one final scene with her and President Snow to really establish her future mindset and explain why she takes the actions she does.
I remember reading the end of a chapter where she has an arrow notched for Snow. But turn the page and she kills President Coin and he dies choking on his own tongue and blood from laughing so hard at the sheer madness of it all. I honestly don't remember my reaction: whether it was a surprise or I had expected it.
It was frustrating that she never got to explain herself to anyone when everyone in the crowd was in a frenzy over what she did. But I like the scene with Haymitch, reading Plutarch's letter about sneaking her out of the city and also understanding her actions.

But I started to wonder/worry that they were going to gloss over Prim's death... until Katniss returns home (in the Victor's part of District 12) and sees Prim's cat. Her reaction still came off better in the book, but J-Law makes this hard to watch for good reasons. We all feel the way she does (at least I should hope so at this point).

I liked the ending where she, Peeta and Haymitch are living together. And she also comes to his room and falls asleep in Peeta's arms.
But then we went into the re-written epilogue section... which I felt was a little overkill with the sticky-sweet factor. I knew she and Peeta would end up together, but did we really have to see them have a couple kids? And she tells one of them about having nightmares and playing "games"... I'm sorry, guys, but give me a freaking break here.
I realize that there would be no Hunger Games (President Coin's push for them with the Capitol's children ended with her death) and there's no reason left to not want kids. But it felt a little too cliché to me.
[Just re-read the last couple pages- the only differences are which of the two child is older and the narrative was converted to dialogue... either way, I rolled my eyes when I read it because I honestly didn't care to know any of that. But that's just me...]

Final Comment:

I really enjoyed the first two movies. The second even more than the first one. But splitting this movie in two might have done it less favors. There were moments with certain character I really enjoyed, but after a while, I just wanted to it all to be over. It wasn't thoroughly enjoyable, but then again, war rarely is.
My mom was saying afterwards that she felt numb after all that's happened through the series. And I tend to agree.

Grade: B+

No comments: