It’s the final countdown – na na na na, dana na nana
Director: Francis Lawrence. Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks. Genre: Sci-fi/Action. Running Time: 137 minutes. Budget: $125 million. Rating: UK (12), USA (PG-13)
It’s safe to say that ever since the release of the first Hunger Games film back in 2012, the series has taken the blockbuster world by storm. After making an astounding $2.3 billion at the worldwide box office, paving the way for much inferior young-adult-set-in-dystopian-future movie franchises and making its leading lady Jennifer Lawrence the undisputed queen of Hollywood, it’s time for the Hunger Game series, adapted from the three novels by Suzanne Collins, to take a bow. The big question facing any franchise-finishing-film is will it round things a satisfying way?
In the case of Mockingjay – Part 2, the answer is a definitive Hell Yes! Although I liked Mockingjay – Part 1, the undeniable criticism of it was its lack of action. Part 2 more than makes for its predecessor’s weakness as it’s a non-stop ride of edge-of-your-seat entertainment. The politically charged Part 1 was all set up for the war revolving Part 2, which totally delivers the payoff.
Picking up where Part 1 left off, Part 2 starts with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) continuing being the face of the rebellion by shooting propaganda videos to inspire the fighters on the front line at the wishes of resistance leader Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). The girl on fire soon grows tired of sitting in the sidelines away from the battle, so sneaks off to join those leading the attack. With the help of those closest to her, including the deranged Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and the friendzoned Gale (Liam Hemsworth) among others, Katniss goes on a personal mission to storm the Capitol and put an arrow through President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Katniss’ crusade gravely endangers her and her friends as they’re faced with a series of deadly traps and tough moral decisions.
The first half an hour evokes the slow-burn of Part 1 as the whole “what-do-we-with-the brainwashed-Peeta” deal sees Part 2 open in a fairly sleepy fashion. When the story gets into full flow, third-time-returning director Francis Lawrence speeds the pace up considerably as Katniss and co find themselves in serious peril.
Lawrence unleashes the action thick and fast as a number of thrillingly tense scenes come one after the other. To stop the advancing rebels, President Snow orders the Capitol to be armed with fatal booby-traps for Katniss’ crew which ironically, puts them in the middle of “the 76th Hunger Games”, one of the terrible traditions they’re fighting to end.
The most menacing of the threats, which delivers the film’s standout scene, comes in the sewers and sees Team Katniss come up against a swarm of vicious bloodthirsty creatures called ‘mutts’. This scene is genuinely terrifying and offers some frightening moments of pure horror similar to Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979).
One of the best things about the Hunger Games films have been how they combined a gritty tone with sci-fi fantasy and Part 2 takes the franchise to a whole new bleaker level with a dark tone to almost rival Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Lawrence creates incredibly high stakes, with emotions running equally high as the death toll. The cast all react to the grimness of story being told in a totally convincing way.
Woody Harrelson’s Hamish says, “Well Katniss, you never do disappoint” and neither does the Oscar-winning actress portraying her. J-Law has always been the glue that holds the Hunger Games together and delivers another majestic performance as the bow-and-arrow-wielding teenage warrior. She subtly shows how the burden of her Katniss’ journey throughout the films has taken its toll on her as she displays an increasing emotional fragility along with a burning desire to kill President Snow.
Donald Sutherland reciprocates the immense feeling of ill-will and scenes Snow and Katniss share are filled with simmering hatred. Sutherland has made an excellently cruel and heartless villain over the series and delivers another great performance.
It’s clear that the passing of the late-great Phillip Seymour Hoffman made the writers adapt his character Plutarch’s role in some scenes but they do a good job considering.
The rest of the cast are all on fantastic form but the understandably Katniss-dominated story leaves many characters overlooked. Josh Hutcherson does his best as the damaged Peeta but considering how much of a major player he was in the other films, his psychotic angle in Part 2 doesn’t seem to do his character the deserved justice.
It would have been great to see Woody Harrelson’s Hamish finally get his hands dirty in battle along with Jena Malone’s Joanna as their charismatic characters felt slightly wasted on the side-lines. A tad bit more screen time for Sam Claflin’s Finnick, Elizabeth Bank’s Effie and Stanley Tucci’s Caesar would have also been nice too.
Some story elements could have been handled a better as well. Teenage romance in films can be cringeworthily corny but the Katniss/Peeta love story in the previous films refreshingly didn’t have my eyes rolling. Unfortunately, their dynamic falls flat in Part 2 as does the love triangle with Liam Hemsworth’s Gale included.
There are some shocking twists and turns which pack some heavy emotional weight but expect to see a major moment seem almost casually brushed off in its immediate aftermath. To be fair it’s addressed later on but its initial poor handling means it doesn’t quite have the impact it was supposed to.
Overall, while Mockingjay – Part 2 has flaws, it no doubt delivers a fitting finale to the series. The word ‘epic’ is thrown around a lot in Hollywood blockbusters but Part 2 is truly deserving of the word. Driven by a magnetic Jennifer Lawrence, some stunning action set pieces and some gripping drama, Part 2 is an exhilarating end of an era. One of the year’s most entertaining films, Mockingjay– Part 2 scores a:
1ish – 2ish Stay away at ALL costs!!!
3ish – 4ish A bad film, not Michael Jackson Bad, but just straight up bad
5ish – 6ish Probably worth seeing at some point
7ish – 8ish A fantastic film definitely worth watching whenever you can
9ish -10 Unmissable – go watch it now!!!
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