Thank the Lord above that Lionsgate scrapped the 3D release of this film.
Not, mind you, because 3D is a particularly needless endeavor for most films; rather, it’s simply that Mockingjay 2–photographed almost entirely in low-light–would have totally dissolved into inky blackness through the filter of one’s 3D glasses. Even as the film stands now, there’s a multitude of scenes where it’s nigh impossible to tell just exactly what is going on.
Considering that Mockingjay 2 is arguably the darkest thematically of the Hunger Games franchise–with its portrayal of revolutions just as corrupt as the systems they’re fighting–one would almost be tempted to claim this visual illegibility an example of narrative marrying form, a rarity in the risk-averse world of franchise filmmaking. As the film moves to its action sequences, though, this literal darkness reveals itself as nothing more than a cheap way to hide its flaws. Combined with the whiplash-inducing editing characteristic of most PG-13-seeking fare as of late, Mockingjay 2 manages to turn its thrilling moments into nothing but indistinct blurs; smeary blobs scream and fire at one another as James Newton Howard’s score blares, completely divorced from the richness that his scores brought to the earlier installments of the series.
Which is a shame, really, considering that the film’s quieter moments aren’t all that bad. Sure, some of the scenes get awfully repetitive–how many times can two people be awake during a watch and discuss really important stuff?–but what’s always set Hunger Games apart from both its YA-dystopia competitors and franchise filmmaking at large is its groundedness in humanity. Characters in The Hunger Games don’t get PTSD for five minutes, get over it, and put their super suit back on; no, they suffer over a long period of time, letting their nightmares infect every interaction they have with every other person they encounter. It’s stark, refreshing, and if nothing else compellingly watchable. Come for the action, the trailers entice us–but it’s what’s in between that action that’s made us return each November.
A pity that Mockingjay 2 seems to want to get that over with as quickly as possible. Whereas the first part was languid, luxuriating in the character development–quite honestly to a fault–part two seems to want to dispatch with everything, bouncing from setpiece to plot point in a manic manner that betrays the thematic heartbeat of the story. Everything is at once rushing and dragging, with characters more than once being incapacitated right as something exciting is about to happen–only to wake up in the aftermath. Everything is a foregone conclusion, even the twists.
Mockingjay 2 isn’t necessarily a bad movie. It’s not necessarily a good movie, either. It’s just sort of…there, with moments of brightness peeking out through the vast, dull din. Much like its predecessor, it feels incomplete, although whether joining the two together or splitting them even further would have saved them is anyone’s guess.