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Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2, The (Blu-ray Review)

11 Mar, 2016 By: John Latchem

Street 3/22/16
Box Office $281.72 million
$$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic material.
Stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland.

The Hunger Games: Complete 4-Film Collection
$54.98 DVD (8 discs), $64.97 Blu-ray (6 discs

The inevitable question that arises from Mockingjay — Part 2, in light of its lower box office tally compared with the first three “Hunger Games” films, is whether the book on which it’s based really needed to be split into two films.

From a financial standpoint, certainly the studio isn’t going to sneer at the extra box office haul, and the discussion of making prequel films comes as little surprise.

From a creative standpoint, the producers waste no time in the Blu-ray’s bonus two-and-a-half-hour making-of documentary justifying the split based on the need to properly flesh out the character dynamics needed for the second part. It’s a fair point, since it allows the second part to hit the ground running with extended action sequences that make Part 2 a much more exciting journey. It also gives the franchise a bit more of an epic scope than just a trilogy would have.

On the other hand, it’s a bit of a shame that the decision to split the story denied the franchise a chance for a final film that maintained the narrative symmetry established across the three books. That is, establishing how the dystopian future presents hardships for Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), how she ends up facing a life-or-death struggle in a deadly arena, and how her actions have political ramifications to the government of Panem.

Keeping this formula in mind, the hardships are dealt with in Part 1, but it’s Part 2 where we get the version of the arena that justifies the story as a chapter in the larger saga. After inspiring a revolution in the earlier films and becoming a symbol of propaganda, Part 2 finds Katniss joins the invasion of the Capitol, which has been rigged with booby-traps designed by the engineers who design Panem’s annual sacrificial games (one trap is essentially a zombie attack, in case anyone was looking to mix a bit of “Walking Dead” into their “Hunger Games”). Thus, the city itself becomes the final arena that Katniss must survive in order to reach her goal of ending the reign of President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

Watching the films in a marathon setting, the split is less of an issue, since the final two parts would play out somewhat like a miniseries. But there is a certain elegance to a film trilogy. There are many scenes in the two films that feel like padding just to include more details from the book, and some plot repetition that could have been combined had the goal been to craft a taut final chapter that still maintained the novel’s effectiveness bringing the story arcs to a close.

Even with two movies to play with, the ending still feels a bit rushed, giving the audience little time to register some major plot developments involving major characters. But on the whole, this is a satisfying conclusion to a franchise that is undoubtedly the best of the recent YA franchise film trend.

The aforementioned documentary is a thorough look behind the scenes, which should please fans to no end. The Blu-ray also contains a few gimmicky but interesting extras, such as a 10-minute featurette about the movie’s publicity photographer showing off some of his pictures and discussing his career and method; a nine-minute look at Katniss’ armor (which is black in the film despite appearing red on the box art; the 42-minute “Jet to the Set” TV special about the Atlanta locations used in the film; and a two-minute promo for a traveling museum exhibition of props and costumes from the film. The Blu-ray also includes a laid back but informative commentary with director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson.

Fans who pick up The Hunger Games: Complete 4-Film Collection can also get a franchise bonus disc containing new extras for the first three films, including 20 minutes of deleted scenes from the first film. However, a lot of the extras on this discs are also available with the extras from the standalone movies.

About the Author: John Latchem

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