|'a confusing mess, where loyalties change and pivot on sentences you can't hear and scenes you don't get to see'|
The concept of narrative satisfaction is interesting to consider when trying to tell a story in a new way, or with a new twist on the expected conclusion. James Bond is expected to emerge victorious over the villain and waltz off into the sunset with the girl. A braver storytelling choice might eschew one or more of those elements, but if it is at the cost of the story concluding in a meaningful and satisfying manner then should it?
This might seem too lofty a place to start when it comes to looking at The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, but telling a satisfying narrative encapsulates all of the film's problems in one fell swoop. This is the concluding part of a four-part series that has built up to this moment of confrontation - Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) versus the Captial - but when faced with the question of how to depict this, director Francis Lawrence and the writing team of Peter Craig and Danny Strong have stumbled badly. Not only does Mockingjay - Part 2 not provide narrative satisfaction, it often provides little narrative sense.
Some of the reasons why that is the case are rooted deep within this franchises' structural, casting and logistical decisions and problems, all of which finally come to weigh heavily on this final part. Josh Hutcherson's Peeta has only ever worked during the first film, as an out-of-his-depth forced fighter, lacking in the ability to exude the machismo his character needs to survive, so that Katniss can come to his aid. Remember when he painted himself as a tree? Since then we've been expected to buy him as a leading man (once again the case here), despite the character and actor having none of the expected common values associated with that sort of role. It hurts this film more than the others, particularly in the final third, where we cannot get away from Peeta's key presence amongst the conclusions.
Mockingjay - Part 2 was in the process of filming when Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his New York apartment, a fact which remains tragic for his family and friends and for cinemagoers who appreciated his truly unique presence. In Mockingjay - Part 1, Hoffman offered a more formal change of pace, which was welcome amongst what at times could feel like frivolities. That presence is lacking here, but so are the attempts to smooth over the story cracks Hoffman's death obviously created. A late letter, read out by another character, is painful watching on many fronts, narratively because it is a world away from the solution which was required and which Francis Lawrence seems to have been unable to come up with.
Above all of those factors though is the finale of the film itself. Its a crushingly un-subtle, exposition-heavy, satisfaction retainer. Characters make choices completely out of touch with their choices throughout the franchise. Other characters, hardly characterised at all in their near cameos so far, make choices which suddenly become life and death to our heroes. Our protagonist, Katniss, loses conciousness at a key moment, ensuring one of the most crucial events of the film happens off screen. It's a confusing mess, where loyalties change and pivot on sentences you can't hear and scenes you don't get to see. If you're a Hunger Games fan, you have a right to be angry, if you're a more casual viewer you have a right to expect much, much more.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 was playing on... whatever they're attempting to call Blinkbox now.