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‘The Hunger Games’ finale struggles to the end

'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2' Epic Finale trailer

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2” wraps up the journey of Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence. The movie is in theaters Friday, Nov. 20.
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“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2” wraps up the journey of Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence. The movie is in theaters Friday, Nov. 20.

The end is finally here for “The Hunger Games” series as “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2” wraps up the emotional and physical journey of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). The conclusion comes with both a sense of closure and a feeling of relief that it’s finally over.

$1,169,814,624The amount Box Office Mojo reports the first three Hunger Games movies grossed

Splitting the final book in the popular series into two feature film parts created a bloated feeling to the story. Instead of the heart-pounding tempo that made the first two movies so entertaining, the slow grind of the finale has is less compelling. It made financial sense – not artistic sense.

The saving grace is the casting of Lawrence, who could make reading a menu sound like a master acting class. She’s the strongest young actress working today and all of that natural skill and talent elevates even the slowest of stories.

Director Francis Lawrence was smart enough to allow the camera to linger on her face, where she reveals mountains of emotion with one look.

What has made the past Hunger Games movies work is Lawrence playing the role with the seriousness usually relegated to productions of a Shakespeare work. The commitment she brought kept this films from sinking into the mire of a teen romance or B-grade action movie. And, she does it again with this finale.

At least in “Mockingjay - Part 2,” she gets some help. Donald Sutherland doesn’t have a lot of scenes as the villainous President Snow, but he makes the most of each second on screen. A face-to-face between Snow and Everdeen is one of the major highlights of the final film.

There’s only so much the actors can do. Screenwriters Peter Craig and Danny Strong smother the good moments with a series of meaningless conversations and slow plot twists that are made more predictable by the plodding pace.

At the heart of this is the not-as-appealing story of Everdeen and a gang of supporters trying to make their way through the inner city of the Capitol. She’s become the driving spark for the revolution and a few more propaganda films won’t hurt the cause.

Rivals for the hero’s affections – a recovering Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and the emotionless Gale (Liam Hemsworth) – are part of the group. There’s an effort by the director to light a fire under the long-running romantic triangle, but the sparks never ignite.

This leaves the trek a little ponderous. It picks up with a subterranean battle with a band of Mutts and a massive oil spill in a confined city plaza that are exciting. It’s just too bad that because the film is made from half a book, there are long lapses between the sequences.

Because of the structure, there is far less for Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Jeffrey Wright to do. All three brought interesting characters to the mix and their lack of on-screen time is a problem. It’s just another example of how the finale was hurt by being stretched to the additional film.

Fans of the book know that there is a giant-size moment in the story. Lawrence stages the event in such a terse manner that the emotional impact is dampened. It’s a major lost opportunity.

All of this sounds like “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2” misses the mark. Despite all of the ills, there is something satisfying about getting to the end of this film franchise.

The problem is that the first film was so engaging that it looked like the series would be a sprint to the finish. Instead, it turned into a marathon. Getting to the end was more challenging than expected, but it still offers some feeling of victory.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

1/2

Movie Review

  • Rated PG-13 (action, violence)
  • Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore
  • Directed by Francis Lawrence
  • Running time: 136 minutes
  • Opens Friday, Nov. 20

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