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After the disappointing and at times tediously dull Mockingjay – Part 1 thankfully Mockingjay Part 2 is a thrilling reminder of why exactly The Hunger Games franchise is such a cut above every single other young adult film series. Fans, both those familiar with Suzanne Collins’ works and those who aren’t, won’t be disappointed as this final instalment in the series wraps things up perfectly with plenty of spectacle but crucially an add dash of emotional weight that feels both satisfying and earnt.
In many ways Mockingjay – Part 2 is the polar opposite of its predecessor. It’s when you compare the two films pacing that this really comes to light; while Part 1 was often mind numbingly slow here there is always something going on, the stakes are constantly being raised. While this can feel a little exhausting director Francis Lawrence balances the film by throwing in several smaller character driven moments breaking up what would otherwise be unrelenting action. At this point, four movies in, audience members genuinely care for the most of the cast which makes these reflective moments feel just as important.
Jennifer Lawrence has always been this franchises trump card and that’s no less true here. Lawrence is one of the brightest actresses working in Hollywood and she brings a massive amount of credibility to the franchise. At this point the reluctant face of the rebellion is gone and Katniss is in full on war mode, there’s plenty of rousing speeches given and even more arrows fired from her signature bow. What is surprising is how excellent Josh Hutcherson’s performance is, often overshadowed by the more hunky Liam Hemsworth, Hutcherson gets some darker and more complex material to work with and does wonders with it.
Speaking of darkness the film’s tone is the bleakness of any in the franchise, after this final film boiling The Hunger Games down to a simple love triangle or comparisons with Twilight are just plain moronic. Mockingjay – Part 2 touches on some important issues such as the cost of freedom, the efficacy of war crimes and whether the needs of the few can be ignored in order to serve the majority. Now don’t make any mistakes, it’s not a landmark war movie akin to say The Thin Red Line but it will make you think more than every other young adult movie combined.
The film does on a few very brief occasions threaten to buckle under the supreme weight of its giant supporting cast. Characters like Johanna Mason (Jena Malone), Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) all feature frustratingly little, though it’s excellent to see that Philip Seymour Hoffman has a few key moments as well as Sam Clafin’s Finnick stealing any scene he’s in. Donald Sutherland is once again pleasingly menacing as the dictator of Panem, President Snow, and his counterpart in District 13, President Coin (Julianne Moore), isn’t bad either.
Once Katniss and a small, well smallish, band of rebels start their trek through the outskirts of the Capital towards Snow’s mansion the film really kicks into high gear. There’s some wonderfully creative traps, set by the Capital’s arena designing game makers, as well as some impressive production design. Much like Harry Potter: and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 after the first act the film rarely stops to catch its breath instead it whisks the audience from one heart pounding action sequence to another, which is the perfect remedy for the dull Part 1.
In terms of being a franchise conclusion Mockingjay – Part 2 is most definitely satisfying. Thankfully in Collins’ original novel she avoided the stereotypical happy ending trap that so many young adult book series can be accused of falling into, and that has transferred over well to the movie adaptation. Not everybody makes it out alive, and on the whole each death feels weighty and serves to remind the audience that this isn’t a game anymore it’s a war. The ending sequence, lifted straight from the book, is sure to be mocked by some, and though it’s largely unnecessary, it ties a neat bow on the franchise.
The Hunger Games has always been unfairly tarnished with a broad brush, lumped in with its vastly inferior contemporaries such as Twilight and Divergent, however even the franchises most stubborn critics will find something to enjoy in this excellent final entry. The Hunger Games: Mockinjay – Part 2 is a heart pounding and thrilling end to a franchise that has always been so much more than simple YA fodder churned out to please teenagers.
Score – 8.5