Genre: Adventure, Sci-Fi
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland
Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the 76th Hunger Games – and the final outing of Katniss Everdeen we can expect to see on the big screen in the foreseeable future. Finnick’s throwaway comment about halfway through this film is fitting, purely down to the realisation of just how far we’ve come since the first and second films. If The Hunger Games introduced us to the vividly-imagined world of Panem and Catching Fire blew that world apart, then the Mockingjay films truly deal with the fallout in every deep, dark and exposing detail.
Picking up where Part 1 left off, Mockingjay – Part 2 opens with a bruised, emotionally beaten and battle-scarred Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) rasping out what we know to be fundamentally true about her: “My name is Katniss Everdeen. I’m from District 12.” And that’s the kicker, just two short phrases that set Katniss on the path toward becoming the Mockingjay and thrown into a revolution that she absolutely didn’t ask for, but it’s one she is determined to end once and for all.For all of Part 1‘s political propaganda and exposition, Part 2 largely does away with this, sending Katniss straight into the heart of the action following a few scenes of lingering Part 1 lethargy. Finnick’s comment then comes as the high value targets – Katniss, a hijacked Peeta, Gale and Finnick himself – come together to form the so-called Star Squad, a battle unit on the front line who get caught up in the booby-trapped Capitol that is President Snow’s last line of defence against the rebellion. It’s war, but it’s still a game to some people – moves and countermoves, in Plutarch’s words – and that is the disturbing realisation that drives the film towards its long-awaited conclusion.
And what a conclusion it is. Mockingjay gives you no time to mourn the impending end of the series, flying through the action thick and fast when it finally gets going and jumping from Gamemaker-devised pods in the barren Capitol streets to the murky underground of the sewers to face terrifying new mutts in a particularly breathtaking battle sequence – and not in the good way. The atmosphere is dark and moody throughout, characters can’t be trusted and even the ones we know and love are suffering through the trauma of war, making for a very bittersweet finale.
For me, one of the biggest drawbacks was Jennifer Lawrence falling victim to her own celebrity. Her performance in this film is phenomenal, which is a good thing considering how much she is needed to carry the film forwards, but sometimes this comes at the cost of her co-stars. Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta Mellark is a conflicted character in this film – a world apart from the hapless Boy with the Bread we were first introduced to – but his battle against his Capitol-hijacked memories and coming back to terms with who he really is is largely sidelined into a few random bursts of aggression that don’t quite have any meaning. Gale too, who has spent much of the previous films out of arenas and watching from home, is supposed to come into his own in Mockingjay, but we see less of him here than we do in Part 1, which is a real shame. And the less said about Finnick’s underused character the better.But ultimately, Mockingjay stays true to its source material and this final film is a very moving and fitting end to a film franchise that was never afraid to deal with the darker sides of its story. While the movie does struggle to find its path towards the agonising steps of moving on post-rebellion, these final moments of dealing with the aftermath of their actions and decisions were the ones that brought me to tears – again, in large part due to Lawrence’s fantastic performance.
Every aspect of Katniss’s darkest emotions and every detail of Panem’s desperate decisions is played out to great effect in such a way that I’m all for the splitting of the book into two movies if only to get to see this final swansong in its current form – and so I can enjoy more hours of the Hunger Games in my rewatches. I’m selfish that way.
With such a nuanced telling of the politics of war throughout, the conclusion to the love triangle and the whole aspect of learning to live your life again caused the ending to stutter slightly following the quick-paced storytelling. However, I’ll concede that it was worth it for Katniss to get to the place she needed to be in order to reach her final moment of clarity: “I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I’ve seen someone do. It’s like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious […] But there are much worse games to play.”