Film Review | The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
As we come to the end of The Hunger Games franchise, it feels a little strange to think that it only started out in 2012. Having efficiently cranked out an instalment each year for the past four years, it will go down as one of the swiftest (and successful) quadrilogies of all time. Whether it will go down as one of the best will likely be discussed in the coming months, but director Francis Lawrence can take pride in having concluded the series on a strong note. If Mockingjay: Part 1 was the calm, then Mockingjay: Part 2 is the angry, depressing, but no less compelling storm.
Picking up moments after Mockingjay: Part 1’s memorable conclusion, we find Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) – who is still recovering from an attack by her brainwashed love Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) – more determined than ever to end the Capitol’s regime. Though Julianne Moore’s Alma Coin would rather use her for propaganda purposes, Katniss breaks rank and sneaks off to the frontlines to kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland, who gets the line of the film and delivers it perfectly), with Finnick (Sam Claflin), Cressida (Natalie Dormer), Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and others tagging along for the ride. There’s just the small matter of a city full of lethal booby traps standing in their way…
To its credit, Mockingjay – Part 2 does not feel like a 137 minute movie. The first two acts in particular are briskly paced, propelled by tense action sequences – which are themselves augmented by James Newton Howard’s impressive score – that push the 12A rating to its limit. The gamemakers are really not playing around anymore; there’s machine guns, flamethrowers, mutants and more obstacles for Katniss’ squad to contend with. It means the stakes feel high for both sides, and each loss dealt to Katniss’ team is sorely felt. This is particularly true of a standout set-piece in an underground tunnel that feels less like a young adult film and more akin to a horror.
Best of all, Mockingjay – Part 2 never forgets that it has something important to say about the exploitation of images, a series trait that has seen the franchise set itself apart from its Young Adult counterparts. An early standoff that sees Katniss resolve a tense encounter with words as opposed to bullets is particularly telling in this regard, as is the arc of Moore’s President Coin.
That’s not to say that the film is without its issues, the biggest of which is its pacing in the final act. Director Lawrence feels burdened by the multiple endings in Susanne Collins’ novel, but he needn’t have followed them as he chooses to here. Speaking of, one of the book’s biggest moments is surprisingly glossed over, and it feels wasteful. And then there is the franchise’s most young adult trait – the oft-discussed love triangle of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale – which is let down by Hemsworth’s inconsistent performance.
There are times when someone performs so consistently well that their talents are expected more than they are appreciated. With that said, expected though it may be, it should not go understated how great Lawrence is as Katniss. Completely believable even when dialogue fails her, she does whatever the scene needs her to do, convincingly morphing from steeliness to vulnerable to emotional. It’s an exceptional performance.
Less expected but very welcome is Hutcherson’s franchise-best performance as Peeta; unlike every other character his biggest enemy is self-loathing, which he must gradually overcome over the course of the film. There’s also a strong turn from Mahershala Ali, who gets to add a little more colour to Boggs’ relationship with Katniss. It’s a shame we don’t get more of Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman (who only shows up in one scene) and Elizabeth Banks’ Effie Trinket, who nonetheless makes good use of her limited screen time. Credit should also be given for director Lawrence’s excellent use of the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose final scenes carry added poignancy.
Although it doesn’t quite justify the need to split the film into two parts, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is a mostly satisfying conclusion to an important, ground-breaking series of films. As the franchise drifts off into the night, all that’s left to do is to give it a three fingered farewell salute, and congratulate Lawrence & co on a game well played.