The film in the running for longest-named movie ever, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, has been out in theaters for a few weeks now, and while it has obviously made money and put a cap on the cinematic version of Suzanne Collins’ novelized story, lots of folks who have seen it are finding more and more to dislike about it. We’re certainly not saying that it’s a bad film, but it does have its bad moments; here, for your reading pleasure, are ten of the most heinous.
*EDITORS NOTE: This post was submitted by Elanna Belanger and Princess Rap Battle staff writer Michael Sullivan – many thanks to both for their many words below!
1) Superficial Love Triangle
For the last book/movie the Gale-Katniss-Peeta love triangle game is supposed to be at its highest and most exciting point. Although Katniss worries over Peeta being held captive in the Capitol, once he returns and tries to kill her (love hurts, doesn’t it?) it seemed like it might be all hope lost for the two star-crossed lovers. The playing field is finally even for Gale, who has always been Katniss’ stalwart companion and equal. In the book, she’s confused but she takes comfort in Gale’s embrace and goes along with his moves on her. In the movie, she kisses Gale almost immediately after talking to Peeta and getting a firm and cruel dismissal from him. This is the most romantic interaction we see with Gale for the entirety of the film. Gale complains that it’s like kissing someone who’s drunk, and says no thank you. And Katniss has no reaction to his comment whatsoever! That’s kind of fine – in general, she didn’t have much reaction to Gale (and the way she blows him off at the end, the movie should have blared Foreigner’s “Cold As Ice” in the background). But it doesn’t exactly set up a compelling “Who is she going to end up with?” mystery. Then again, she showed more affection toward Buttercup the cat than she did with either guy. (Another valuable note: this director has clearly never owned a cat).
An unexpected suggestion of romance at the very end with Haymitch and Effie left me saying: What the hay!-What the eff!
2) Where’s the laughs?
One big, overarching problem with the film was that there just wasn’t much sense of humor. The few stabs at humorous dialogue are tacky and feel awkwardly placed: Peeta and Gale conferring about Katniss while she’s lying awake a few feet away, Cressida’s snide remark about President Snow hurrying up with his last dying breath, and Johanna’s sarcastic marks–which are normally funny as part of her acerbic character–fall short of garnering laughs. There are some moments that made me smile (like President Snow correcting President Coin when she says “plucked” and Finnick cracking an egotistical smirk when he sees his picture on the holograph) but those were rare moments. You just can’t expect an audience to stay in a single, morose mood for the entire 2+ hour running time without giving them the occasional chance to let off a bit of steam with a laugh. The humor can be pervasive (Pirates of the Caribbean), occasional (Lord of the Rings), or it can even be rare and dark (“How about a magic trick?”), but it has to exist, or your film is going to be a dreary experience for everyone involved. Mockingjay is meant to be tragic and dark, but a lot of the emotional depth is lost not only because there isn’t enough time spent on reflection of the gruesome and gritty reality the war creates and the suffering the characters go through, but because there’s no balance of light-hearted moments.
3) Too much, too little
The locations were stunning. The costumes were incredible. The acting was an embarrassment of riches. Can I just say that in a film where the principal cast includes something like 15 Academy Award nominations (Jennifer Lawrence, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, and Stanley Tucci), and the person I consider to be one of the three most underrated actors working today (Jeffrey Wright), that I thought Donald Sutherland was the real standout. And he had a role that could have devolved into some ugly scenery-chewing, so… good on ‘ye, Sutherland. I was disappointed that they didn’t give Effie to do this time, because she was some pleasant relief from the seriousness of the other films. The problem here, is that too many characters were introduced that weren’t given appropriate time to be fleshed out. As far as the book goes, there’s plenty of time. But in the movie, it would have been fair to cut down the Star Squad to our dearly beloved heroes and leave the other soldiers as anonymous super fighters.
Their deaths would still add to the startling body count and offer shock value or sympathy, but it would make the more important deaths more meaningful. For example, Castor sobs over the loss of his brother, but does anyone cry over Finnick?? The one member of the Star Squad who has a discernible personality, a backstory, and the only death that feels “earned” –he gets his wedding scene, he fights like a freaking banshee with his trident, he sacrifices his best chance of escape to save Katniss, still almost escapes, and it takes an entire squad’s worth of mutts to keep him down. Yet all this merits is a five second reaction shot of Katniss’ horror and a downplayed decision to self-destruct the holo (their most important tool in successfully reaching President Snow’s mansion) in order to spare Finnick the pain of being eaten alive by muts.
4) Emotionally numb reactions
In fact, there is a rather shallow display of emotional response to any of the deaths of significant characters. Boggs’ death is given more reaction time than Prim’s. And Prim is the reason any of this happened! Katniss hardly even acknowledges that Prim is gone until she loses it on the cat. Her emotional reactions to nearly everything are so subdued; for as much trauma and pain she survives, her only concession to what has to be one of the worst cases of PTSD in human history is whispering to her baby that she has nightmares sometimes. I just..*shakes head*. I honestly thought I was going to cry when I saw Mockingjay Part II because when I read the book, the realistic dark sombreness stayed with me, and I spent hours processing how Katniss is left an empty shell. She made so many sacrifices—even when so many were willing to sacrifice her. Her end life is not glamorous, it’s not a happy ride off into the sunset heroine end. There is only the faint glimmer of happiness where she and Peeta are able to live freely in their own small world. But the simultaneously “good” and “bad” feeling to this ending is not fully communicated, nor is the struggle to achieve that ending fully recognized.
The dialogue tries (and fails) to carry the character development over the lack of emotional response. Many of the lines seem so cliché and….cheesy. Little snide asides are not enough to set up humorous content. Grandiose speeches from Katniss are almost to be expected, considering her sole power as a pawn is her image and persuasiveness. And this is fine when her speeches are directed to the masses and she’s rallying the Rebels or even the loyal Capitolists to turn their weapons on Snow. But she turns to speeches to show her inward struggles and the result doesn’t cut as deep as it could. Peeta reveals that he has a hard time discerning reality from fake memories and Katniss goes on a rant about him being kind, and an artist, and a bread baker (“and I’m a speech maker!”). President Coin’s dialogue is by far, the tackiest, as the discovery that she wants to appoint herself leader makes her into the newest “secret” villain apparently lends her the excuse to start using heavy archaic lines like “I have taken the heavy burden, and wonderful honor, of being interim president upon myself,” and “May your aim be true, and your heart pure!” Regardless of how much any of the characters say, not a lot of their speech gives true substance into how they’re feeling.
5) The Hollow Excuse of a Holo
Based on the reality that they’ve given us, the Holo is the most important single device in the entire movie because it shows the location of the traps, or pods, placed around the city. The pods in the Capitol are ridiculously terrifying, and the Star Squad is simply not going to advance without it. Yet, the rest of the Rebels are forced to attempt to press forward at the mercy and whim of the hundreds of hidden pods. Why wouldn’t you replicate that Holo for all of the rest of the Rebels? Boggs (the commander of the Star Squad) said that it was because they didn’t want the Capitol to know they had the technology. Why? You kept District 13 a secret for years but you can’t keep President Snow and affiliates from finding out you have a map of their sadistic booby traps? You could have programmed those Holos the night before the invasion. What’s the Capitol going to do? Dig up every trap and place it elsewhere? I mean, did you see those traps? Gigantic flamethrowers that deployed from a wall and triggered for like 15 full seconds over an area that was probably around 200 cubic feet in volume. You’re not going to just dig that out of the wall overnight.
Commander Boggs is the one with the Holo, and he’s the only one (due to some weird voice-activated security encryption) who can even use the device. I want to talk for a second about how stupid Boggs is. The Holo is not 100% accurate because there’s a small chance that some pods were placed after the map was created. So, one would think, after seeing a pod initiate and two massive anti-aircraft guns take out an entire stone archway, as well as cutting chunks out of the two buildings the Star Squad hides behind, that Boggs would proceed with caution and err on the safe side. Nope. Boggs waits less than two seconds after the firing stops before confidently striding out of cover and walking past the guns. What if they had just built in a delay of a few seconds, Boggs? What if they were motion-activated and fired for a set amount of time, Boggs? What if they had an automatic reloading mechanism, Boggs? What if there’s another trap, Boggs?
Oh, turns out there are three other traps. A simple landmine kills Boggs (you deserved it!), there’s a hidden wire snare which is hard to tell apart from the most baffling and cliche pod: the oil trap.
6) The Oil Trap
There are four things about this scene from a storytelling perspective that drive me absolutely insane. In order from least disruptive to “I’m still angry about this today.”
I. When Peeta attacked Katniss, she was saved by Mitchell. Peeta throws Mitchell into the oil, where another pod with a barbed net ensnares Mitchell and suspends him in the air. When we see him later, he’s dead, covered in oil. Now let’s assume that you’re watching the movie without knowledge of the book. It appears that the net is part of the oil trap. Which – just from a physics perspective – makes no sense. How would the oil know that it’s caught a human, and not just some piece of rock? How would the net deploy from inside the oil?
II. If the unidentified black liquid was oil, do you know what one match would have done? It would have created a lake of fire. Even if the Star Squad miraculously made it to high ground in time, if you’d set the oil on fire, that’s game over. You had flamethrowers embedded in walls earlier. You couldn’t have a Zippo ready to fire? This was Chekhov’s Oil.
III. This is the trigger that makes Peeta revert to his brainwashing and try to kill Katniss. Not the deafening anti-aircraft guns, not the landmine, not seeing Boggs with his goddamn legs blown off. A torrent of viscous black fluid that may or may not be oil.
IV. All of these problems paled in comparison to the way that the onslaught of oil ended oh-so-conveniently one step below the landing where the Star Squad had escaped. That is so clichéd that it was slightly painful.
7) Peeta Looks More like a Liability than a Lover
It’s frustrating for me as someone who has read the books, because I love Peeta’s character and rooted for him the whole way (even though I didn’t necessarily expect he would win Katniss in the end). The final book is deep, dark, and tragic, and capitalizes on Katniss being a pawn and powerless yet still fighting for what she thinks will create a better world for everyone. Peeta’s experience in the capital is supposed to completely destroy him. He was brainwashed, beaten, and tortured. But his love for Katniss draws him out and he fights for his true memories. Katniss is equally destroyed by the events of the war and the loss of her family; while not completely lost, she’s broken. Peeta (over time) helps her to heal and they find strength in each other. In the movie, Peeta essentially looks like a crazed, helpless man who Katniss has an unimpeachable weak spot for, regardless of the fact that he tries to kill her (twice) and does absolutely nothing useful.
His strengths have always been his charming personality and his quick thinking, but in this final episode we don’t see any of his strengths and this makes Katniss look bad. Her decision to be with him seems like it’s fueled more by memories of how things were rather than her recognition of loving Peeta (even though his sweet gesture of planting primroses in the garden is the one indication of how he can help Katniss to heal), and it lacks the satisfaction true Peeta fans should have received in seeing them
end up together. The poor guy goes through two Hunger Games and a war using his smarts and doing everything he can to protect her and love her even when she rebuffs him, but she only wants him after he’s injected with tracker jacker poison and wants to strangle her. Go figure.
8) Bizarre Tactical Plot Holes by the Rebels
The two main attacks the Rebels plan are on District 2 and the Loyal Capitolists holed up inside a mountain fortress deemed “The Nut”, and on the Capitol itself. The Rebel leaders converse with President Coin, while looking at an insanely detailed holographic version of The Nut and determining how best to get the weapons inside. There is some confusing back and forth before Gale suggests to abandon the primary objective (getting those weapons) and bury The Nut by collapsing the entire impregnable structure regardless of how many civilians are caught inside. The Rebels then use what must have been a significant number of hovercrafts armed with enormous bombs to cause massive structural collapses. They didn’t actually show this on film – we only saw the effects reflected in the holographic representation, and I wasn’t 100% sure what was happening there (this whole battle sequence is unclear). But regardless of whether they were blowing up the topography around The Nut, or the walls of The Nut itself… that’s a ton of bombs and armed hovercrafts to get them there. After this, the Rebels apparently just completely forget that they have access to such devices, because they completely disappear.
And why were certain characters on the Star Squad sticking with their assigned bows and handguns when there were automatic weapons to replace them? Finnick is mighty handy with his trident, but if he had a gun he might have had a better chance of survival (because Gale definitely has a gun, so you can’t argue that they didn’t have any). Of course, the Star Squad makes certifiably insane decisions on a regular basis, like bringing Peeta with them at the risk of Katniss’ life so they can film him fighting back against the Capitol. Because at this point, why do they even need propaganda? Don’t they have a full Rebel army and plan to bomb the Capitol? Which isn’t much of a well thought out plan…
9) Vague Explanation of President Coin’s bombing of the Capitol
The biggest attack on the Capitol at the end (which also uses Gale’s ideas to place bombs inside of medical parachutes and deploy a second explosion once people are rushing in to help the injured) seems like a huge waste of life and time. If the Rebels had the capacity to fly planes over the Capitol and drop bombs inside the courtyard, why didn’t they do just that any point over the mansion itself? Particularly at a time when there weren’t children and refugees waiting outside the doors. President Snow tells Katniss it wasn’t his plan, but it’s unclear why it would be in the first place. Why would he want to kill off most of his own people when he had so many other opportunities to attack the Rebels on their own territory? He had no indication for how close the Rebels were to the mansion, and how would he plan to drop the bombs disguised as aid directly when they approached? Katniss discovers it truly was a double prong bomb attack from President Coin, based on Gale’s idea (this is why Katniss dismisses him, because she can never forgive him for being on board with it and for possibly causing Prim’s death). There is a small mention of this at the beginning of the movie when Katniss asks Gale and Beetee about how fair his plan of a “Trap” would be. The bombing is meant to be a cruel and unnecessary waste of human life but without proper explanation it seems even more wasteful and pointless.
10) The Off-screen Climax and Rushed Denouement
The first 80% of this movie led us to the climax of the war effort and Katniss’ attempt to sneak into President Snow’s mansion as a disguised refugee. And within about five minutes of screen-time, the three most important characters have either been abandoned (Peeta), kidnapped by Peacemakers [or disguised Rebels?] (Gale), or knocked unconscious (Katniss… ugh, again). The abrupt explosions and tiny glimpse of Prim before Katniss literally becomes the girl on fire (and also comatose in the snow) is the most we get to see of the end of the war. It ends off-screen! That was the natural climax of the story, and we were robbed. The Snow/Coin death should have been the denouement. Instead, Snow/Coin becomes the climax. And that would have been okay if there was the ethical build up to it that the book had where Katniss has an inner struggle deciding who to blame for the double-bombing and death of Prim, or even if she spent more than a couple hours locked up after killing Coin (as she’s supposed to spend days or even weeks in a room, going slightly crazy and into a depressed funk until the trial is over and she’s allowed to go home). The epilogue of Peeta and Katniss is also rushed. He appears back at District 12 and within a night she decides to go to his bedroom and admits to loving him. And without even having a final kiss (so disappointing), the closing scene shows them with their children. That’s why you don’t Netflix and chill, kids.