[Note: These ARE mostly positive reactions, because the film is wonderful--even if I sound kinda negative at first, & do have critiques. This is gonna take a while to get out, but I must.] Well...the 18th has come and gone, and...I've got to be perfectly frank: I still feel as if I haven't seen Part II. Even though I undeniably did. Guess I'm still trying to process. But from June/July through November 17, I had acquired the strange sensation of already having seen at least half the film via clips, trailers, TV spots, and stills well ahead of time. And only now do I realize just how accurate that feeling was--even if it was more like 1/3 than 1/2, I already had so many key lines etched into my mind, and virtually every scene mapped out and visualized. Precious few shots were actually fresh or "surprising" and new by the time of finally seeing it all together. I felt more as though I were just getting additional "sneak peek" clips that filled in the spaces among all the other "sneak peek" clips. Somehow, I had anticipated still more...and that really boils down to the way that the film concludes. I couldn't deny feeling more satisfaction, fulfillment, and "closure" than the (still basically terrific) book had provided--but, still not enough. As a note, that book was Ygritte to the reader's Jon Snow: "You know nothing." Part 2 was in place to enhance the post-execution denouement tremendously, leaving us with something close to perfection. Now I'm here, just struggling to understand how my dearest loves could've taken a few extra (*excellent*) steps and then stopped short, fumbling the ball instead of following through. The issue's not with what was done, but with what wasn't.
Before going into epic detail, let me just address the fact that I attended the Wednesday-afternoon/evening double-feature--and arrived a full half-hour early, figuring I'd need the time to find good parking and secure a perfect spot in the theater. Turned out I could've gotten there late and been fine. There was ONE other person present, and she entered when we were already well into Part 1 (around the "I like you better" moment. ;) 4:30 on a Wednesday, in a not-so-huge theater...normally this wouldn't surprise me a bit. But the special event for the last installment of one of the most insanely popular film series of all time? Call me crazy, but I'd expected at least a few more seats to be filled. We were given two extra lanyard+pin sets just for being there. So, there was none of the electrifying shared experience with fellow mega-fans picking up one another's vibes, as I'd kinda hoped there might be. Guess that'll come Thursday, or more definitely Friday, night. But then, there was no obnoxious spoiler-shouting or anything, either, and barely a thing to distract from my absorption of Part 2. My mom was a pretty good viewing buddy for the most part, even if the movies didn't constantly maintain her rapt attention (I actually had to elbow her right before the climactic execution twist to get her to look up from an apparently important text message.) I'd warned her she was in for 4+ hours' worth of dismal, dreary depression, and she wound up liking it; I just had to refresh her somewhat on the events of the first two. And let her know exactly what a mockingjay IS, and why it's got a rebellious connotation. ;p She thought Gale was cuter than Peeta (told her I'm a Haymitch girl myself & she didn't quite see it) and that Caesar was gay, found Peeta to be a "goofy-looking, annoying, whiny crybaby" (to which I responded with the refresher on the whole story, and by saying I couldn't exactly blame him for blubbering a lot after what all he's been through), correctly identified the two Game of Thrones actresses, immediately called Coin's hair "an ugly wig" (lol yep), guessed during Part 1 that Snow wouldn't end up being killed simply because you want it to happen, and knew Katniss would vote "yea" but didn't realize the true reason at first--because I don't think she saw that twist coming!
All in all, seeing both halves of "Mockingjay" in one fell swoop, as intended, was somehow simultaneously draining and energizing.
Wednesday felt like Christmas morning (a certain ship being the Turbo-Man of the gifts I needed to receive!)
So. The majority of the film is, as I had no doubt it'd be, absolutely well done. The cinematography, the excellent visual effects, the acting from virtually every single cast member--it's all more than proficient, and kept me very much enthralled. You become engrossed in the world of Panem and, horrific as it gets, don't want to leave due to your attachment to the characters. The emotional impact is HEAVY, your torment is real, and all of the action, exhilaration, terror, and danger are made that much more intense by the fact that most of these characters aren't typical interchangeable cardboard inserts, but actual people you really care about.
-I liked that we jumped directly back into the plot with no unnecessary recapping, although I expected them to start with the Nut/D2 scenes and THEN go to the working-on-Peeta and wedding ones. No real matter, though, for me. Obviously the films have to hugely condense time, but Pt. II opens with the next major events in 13.
-The Gale-Katniss rift begins forming early on. Katniss' speech to the man holding her at gunpoint in D2 was very well-delivered. And the wedding was lovely!!, even though it breezed by because we'd already seen 99% of it since June, so I'd made observations on it in response to the trailers. I suppose there simply wasn't time for further merriment or interesting moments and interactions on a joyous occasion.
-Several lines had been noticeably edited, spliced, or added into or out of certain shots, for the trailers/TV spots.
-Johanna: Absolutely brilliant. Yeah, all she really gets to do is say stuff, but it's awesome stuff. She's there, you can feel her presence; it's just that the chunks of stuff that flesh her out a little more in the book (her & Katniss' roommate situation, the pine needles, etc.), aren't shown. I suppose they would've felt...extraneous, in a film where they really couldn't afford to dally in 13 for too long.
But truly, 98% of the comic relief and lightness in Part 2 is provided by her, Haymitch, & Plutarch.
-In the Capitol apartment scene: The lack of surnames onscreen for the camera crew people bothered me. Not just because I'm an obsessive stickler for details, which I AM--but because it looked cheesy to key "Cressida," "Messalla," "Castor," "Pollux"...followed by "Gale Hawthorne," "Peeta Mellark," "Katniss Everdeen"...as if those guys are famous enough to go by their first names alone. Or their surnames are unknown/less important than the "main characters"'? Come on, even Casear doesn't just call himself "Caesar!" Mags can get a surname via a poster, but not those guys in a movie? However, I also chuckled, for Gale aime leurs bon-bons! xD
-"Picked from..." "Plucked." If I had to crown the two funniest moments in Part 2, they've got to be this one, and Haymitch tossing away Plutarch's pre-written speech as soon as Katniss predictably rejects it. But oh, Snow's little annoyance at Coin not only having the nerve to intercept his broadcast, but MISQUOTING him! XD Brilliant. You know what, you guys? Leave everyone else out of this mess, and just duke it out between the two of you in your own little arena. Talk about entertainment!! Seriously. How unruffled he always is, how unflappable--coolly, calmly, collectedly assessing the situation, and beginning to methodically stategize his next move.
Never let them see you bleed.
-LEAPING LIZARDS!! The seemingly universally praised sewer sequence was everything promised, especially once the demonic, hissing, razor-toothed, blind, slimy, naked cave lizard mutts appeared at last. Those things are the utterly horrifying stuff of nightmares, and at least ten times worse than the book even had you thinking. I mean, people have compared them to zombies, but although they're humanoid, they look more alien than undead. They don't appear to transform you into one by biting you. And what kind of zombies have you ever seen move with such laser-like speed and agility? Damn. TWD would never have made it past season 2. xD So that scene WAS the spot-on blend of horror and sci-fi it's been touted as--and, of course, rightfully dreaded. Finnick's death was an even harder bit to handle than I thought it would be. The text had made it seem like a mercifully quick, almost instantaneous snap. But ohhh, nooooo. Turns out it had to be Cato and the dog mutts all over again...drawn into him being pulled from the ladder and set upon by numerous mutts, tearing at him as he screams Katniss' name. The way she recited "Nightlock" thrice and deployed the self-destructing holo to spare him the agony and eliminate all the remaining mutts as well...that was really hard to take, man. And then having to see his face on the big wanted poster right afterward! *stab* Way to rub it in. But it cannot be denied that Mr. Odair fought valiantly to the end, and died a hero by allowing the rest to escape first. That's a far better feeling than people had gotten from the book, wherein his death seemed random, glossed-over, and pointless (to the mission.)
Not that every loss along the way isn't very sad, starting with Boggs. And poor Pollux! I hope he's not blaming himself for the deaths of his brother and the rest who didn't make it out of the sewer, since he was the one to come up with the idea of going underground, and was their leader down there. Still, the bulk of the squad consists of mildly developed people you subconsciously know are there so that plenty can be picked off along the trail, without needing to sacrifice too many "main" ones. You're never truly safe, though, if you're not part of "the trio"--and Finnick, alas, stood just outside of that core. ><
Messalla's flesh-melting spectacle was, as we knew, visualized more as a swift "explosion" into what resembled little cubes.
-There wasn't a whole lot of major stuff to omit/skip. The cafeteria scene, the pre-Capitol training, and a few other things would've been basically unneeded bits. Unfortunately. A couple of inclusions I would have liked: a) Katniss' spontaneous, instinctive shooting of the random civilian (obviously for the squad's protection, but it would've been a daring thing to show), and b) Quick mention of the murdered Peeta lookalike.
-The "real or not real" scenes interspersed with the action sequences to carry the "Let's restore Peeta" subplot might slow the film down for those who aren't big fans and care more about thrills than drama or story.
-"If you kill him, Katniss...if you end all this..." A lot of people thought this line was OCC for Peeta, especially the "if you kill him" part. I hypothesized that the line might have been manipulatively edited for trailers, but nope. I mean, a) he still hasn't come 100% back into himself at that point, so it could be that it's not the completely original Peeta saying it; and b) By then they had no choice but to forge ahead, to try and salvage the mission, to make SOMEthing of it. Katniss was feeling the guilt of literally thousands of deaths weighing on her conscience, including those of several squad members--one a close friend who'd just been torn apart by lizard mutts. Peeta knew his opinion mattered the most to her, and that he HAD to say something to encourage her onward. I liked his listing of the people who'd died since their first Games (especially the ones who chose and believed in Katniss), though he obviously couldn't mention them all. He wouldn't have even known or remembered some of the names.
-Tigris! Amazing! Yeah, again, we'd seen all there was to see of her previously...but still. The tats! The whiskers! The claws! The mane! She's impressive the hundredth time you look at her, and particularly so when she comments on her former position as a Games stylist: "Snow decided I wasn't pretty enough anymore." GRRRRAWR. What's that SOB got against tigers?!? A phobia?! Do you find them especially hideous for some reason? Or ya jealous? Too"furry" or "freakish" for ya? (Unless she wasn't being honest?) :p Well, I think you're pretty, Tigris. No matter how odd it is to embody your spirit animal by adopting the appearance of a wildcat. Guess her tiger thing just didn't come out well in most opinions. Too weird and out-there (& seemingly a permanent thing with her.) At any rate, she's now sympathetic to the rebels. Her motions were smooth, silky, elegant, and subtly feline--her silhouette tall, slender, and lithe. Another small part that's nonetheless effective, impactful, and awesome-looking. Reminded me a bit of Grizabella, too. ;)
-The Girl in the Lemon-Yellow Coat: A specific detail partially included to help drive home the horrors of war on all sides (there are always lots of innocent victims), and also to inject more suspense.
-Sooo...no pods during the undercover march to Snow's mansion, but I very surprisingly didn't even miss those, caught up as I was at that point in the action. Katniss can't bring herself to shoot Gale when he's captured by PKs, Coin ingeniously frames Snow for the bombings outside the mansion--scaring and angering enough people to end the war as a rebel victory. After all this...poor Prim almost might as well have been a tribute after all. ;; The post-bombing and post-execution periods were summarized and handled nearly exactly the way I predicted they'd be. Overall, the passage of time could've been better indicated, though--especially among the major events following Prim's death. They unfortunately let non-readers get the impression of it all happening within a matter of days/weeks (was the regrowth of Johanna's hair really the only concrete sign? That covered the major period between Katniss leaving 13 & the voting/execution, but there was still the pursuant trial period before she returned to 12. It all felt a little over-compressed in a film that definitely could've stood to be longer.)
I mean, even the degree of Katniss' physical recovery from her severe burns probably didn't indicate to the general audience the fact that she spent weeks lying practically catatonic in the hospital before being told about what happened the day of her sister's death; they wouldn't necessarily expect her to look too terrible, if they hadn't read the book to know how bad it truly was. The screen goes from smoke, to her waking up (and saying "Mom" as Mrs. E. applied ointment.) Figures that they weren't going to imply weeks of her lying there, lost in dreams and being fed information and all, so you just cut to the chase and have Haymitch tell her the key facts when she's better enough to try sitting up and actually engaging with them. It works. They naturally had to skip over the dullish time in the mansion, too. I just sorta wish there could've been another way to at least work in mentions of the post-parabomb time periods.
Katniss unleashed her emotions at last on Buttercup, in stupendous "ugly-cry" fashion, and it was wonderfully terrible. I almost did want to laugh at the cat's hunch-backed O_O "Whoa, why you screamin' at me?" expression in response to her delayed outburst, since--to quote another of my favorite movies--"laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."
-I don't think there should be any excuse for people failing--for long, anyhow--to grasp why Katniss and Haymitch voted in favor of another Games session, and why Katniss nipped Coin in the bud. That was a concern, but it was portrayed...well, pretty much flawlessly. You could see Haymitch's thought processes going on, and his trust in the Mockingjay to again do the right thing. Peeta may have been shocked by the yes votes, or at least Katniss', but no one else seemed to be. It's painfully delicious how Katniss stares with such loathing at Prim's murderer, who thinks the girl's rage is directed at Snow...
-The full reveal of Coin' true nature to the uninformed audience throughout MJ was timed
pretty well. From "stiff and chilly but sometimes seems sympathetic/vaguely
likable/possibly an okay leader" (gotta be better than Snow...right??), to "stern and cold, seriously over-controlling,
kinda suspicious," to Boggs spelling things out for Katniss early in the
mission, to Snow's revelations, to the end where she tops it all off by proposing another Hunger Games to
satiate the rebels' (& her own...) thirst for more blood (since they can't well further
decimate the population by putting the whole Capitol to death, on top of her
many initial punishments!) Uuuuberbitch! Clearly, such a move would only perpetuate
the endless cycle of division and violence to which Katniss had referred
in District 2. That reminded me of Game of Thrones, too--the wheel that
just keeps on turning, people viewing each other as enemies and
murdering, one corrupt and iron-fisted despot replacing another, and
replacing another, and on and on it goes...until at last someone comes along
and, objectively seeing this wheel without succumbing to it, vows to take the opportunity not
merely to stop it, but to break it.
Although they left out the
brutal punishments to which even petty criminals are subjected in 13, I
thought the Coin development was fairly well-paced...leading the maybe-wary, maybe-trusting audience
to trust in her less and
less over time (likely lagging well behind many of the characters)... rather than, say, making her look fantastic and then throwing
out one big shocking twist midway or beyond. It was important to understand that in her, Panem would be getting another dangerous totalitarian, Snow's flip-side.
-Loved how we got to see Snow feeling the effects of the poison (not to mention using some more...R.I.P., Antonius.) He may be on his way out, but he's determined to use his every last ounce of strength to bring down Katniss and her allies.
By the greenhouse scene, where he tells Katniss the truth about how the war was brought to a close, it's evident that he's on his way out. If you ask me (or just about anybody else), Coin DID intentionally kill Prim--to try and break Katniss. To solidify and guarantee her support no matter what, hopefully remove her as a threat to Coin's own imminent ascent into supreme power ("interim President," indeed. Misgivings about her: better-placed than you'd have even thought!*) Prim's presence in the line of fire was no coincidence. By giving Katniss the gift of "vengeance" for her sister, Coin figured she had this all in the bag. 'Til she took a nasty tumble. ;p The one good thing Snow did was making Katniss see the truth, and his laughter at the irony of the execution's outcome was just fantastic. Sutherland, as always, is magnificent. Everyone is...from Julianne as super-hammy "'My-Body-Is-Ready' Jesus-Coin," to J-Law as a satisfied-looking executioner. (Snow's "I'm sure she wasn't gunning for your sister, but these things happen in war" line was probably his way of slyly telling her the exact opposite--that, indeed, she was, and she used Gale's technique to accomplish it. 'Twas personal. He let her figure it out, and see that he was right.)
*When Haymitch said he could "never fully support that woman," one had to wonder whether it was really JUST about the prohibition. ;-p 'Cause expand on that--it's clear that 13 isn't big on liberty.
-Katniss coldly dismissed Gale once she recognized the pattern of the trap that had taken Prim, and knew for certain that it was 13's doing. Now, Gale had become too comfortable with indiscriminate killing for her taste; thinking and acting like the enemy was coming far too naturally to him...BUT, his desire to protect Primrose was unquestionable. In the end, neither of them could.
-Old Plutarch! Well, he played all his cards just right & made out like a bandit. Always knew the right line, the right maneuver. Of all the major characters, he's the only one to emerge basically unscathed--and he got what he wanted. Well played, sir. Of course, it helps not to be *that* attached to anyone; to be first and foremost a gamemaster. There's a guy who could well navigate Westeros' Game of Thrones! (Haymitch's reading of Plutarch's letter to Katniss is a sad reminder of PSH's tragic loss, but the reason for it in the story is so plausible that anyone unaware of this part having been originally scripted for Phil wouldn't necessarily suspect so.)
-"There are much worse games to play." INDEED! Like HongKong '97, Big Rigs, CrazyBus, Desert Bus, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Master Chu & the Drunkard Hu, Universal Studios Theme Parks Adventure, Plumbers Don't Wear Ties, virtually anything made by LJN, etc. ;p
On the WHOLE, I feel...pleased...though the film falls short of perfection, it is definitely something great to behold.