FILM REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (Francis Lawrence, 2015)

I may be scorned for saying that The Hunger Games is my favourite trilogy, but give me teenagers fighting to the death over Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or The Godfather any day. The first two films – The Hunger Games and Catching Fire – set a high bar for the dystopian future teen genre, with nothing yet coming close in quality. The first film instalment of the third book, Mockingjay, was somewhat underwhelming in comparison, serving merely as a set-up for the final showdown. But with Mockingjay Part 2 there’s a return to form, in what is the most thought-provoking film of the bunch.

Wedding attire.
Wedding attire.

If you think for one second you’re going to do the unthinkable and watch this film without having seen the previous ones, step the hell back and stop being so damn ridiculous. It will be torturous. But surely no one is that silly, and those who are familiar with Katniss Everdeen’s journey will be heftily rewarded with this finale, provided you’re not coming just for the battle scenes. While there are some exciting action sequences, Mockingjay is interested in bigger political themes – the cost of rebellion, the dangerous thirst for power, the use of the media, and the need for a hero and also an enemy to unite the masses. Though it’s pretty dark, it’s probably one of the better things teenagers could be watching these days.

Gail schmail.
Gail schmail.

The film has made various changes from the source material and overall seems to be an improvement. One character whose death was frustratingly brief in the novel is afforded a more deserving exit, however the main death unfortunately suffered the opposite problem. The action sequences are solid and not overdone. Producer Nina Jacobson stated that the final battle scenes are pared down because they are so often boring in film – DAMN STRAIGHT, give that woman a medal. Instead the filmmakers opted to only include action that served to show the impact it had on their protagonist. There are certainly a few others that could take a leaf out of director Francis Lawrence’s book. *COUGHMICHAELBAYCOUGH*

"Don't forget who you are... the kid from Zathura"
“Don’t forget who you are… the kid from Zathura”

It’s rare to have someone so talented leading a teen series, but Jennifer Lawrence is everything, and continues to amaze and astonish as Katniss Everdeen, the poster child of the rebellion. Those facial expressions are something else. Further adding cred to the franchise is the casting of the phenomenal Julianne Moore as President Coin and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee (and the filmmakers have handled his unforeseen early departure cleverly).

Champs.
Champs.

Donald Sutherland remains deliciously evil as President Snow, while Woody Harrelson as Haymitch and Elizabeth Banks as Effie continue to delight with the tiniest smidgen of humour the franchise has left. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta delves deep to get into a darker place, and does so admirably, while Liam Hemsworth continues as bland old Gail. (Although, to be fair, the love triangle subplot is surprisingly decent.) Add Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Patina Miller, Natalie Dormer and the always wonderful Stanley Tucci, and you have yourself one hell of a cast.

They found the Bay Harbor Butcher.
They found the Bay Harbor Butcher.

The book suffered partly from too many additional characters, however this is better managed in the film and in fairness the high number is necessary given the rate of death. With much of the action set in the Capitol this time around, we are afforded a change of scenery, with external scenes filmed in Paris and Berlin. Some of those tremendously over the top Capitol costumes are back, but unfortunately in limited quantity. However, Effie gets a few gems and her eyelashes look fab.

There's no such thing as too much.
There’s no such thing as too much.

At two hours and seventeen minutes it’s shorter than the first two films, but if you’re not enjoying it then you will feel the length. Just when you think it’s about to end, another scene begins, then another, then another. You may find yourself wishing you’d be thrown into a games arena so you could just die already. But for those Hunger Games tragics, you will relish every last second. Goodbye Katniss. Long live the Mockingjay.

4 stars

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