And thus ends the Hunger Games franchise, not with a bang but with a somber, reflective finale. The young adult series has managed to be more than above average among its peers, and Part 2 of Mockingjay is no different. Apart from a few missteps, Part 2 is a fitting send off, with some of the series’s best action sequences with characters we’ve come to know over three great films.
I was one of those who cried wolf when Mockingjay was to be split into two parts, and perhaps I can still see a case for it, but this would work much better as a three-hour film including bits of Part 1. Regardless though, we pick up right where we left off, with virtually no room to breathe. The rebels of District 13 and their mockingjay, Katniss Everdeen, are planning to storm the Capitol and overthrow President Snow. Complicating things is Peeta, under the influence of the Capitol after his torture in the previous film.
I’ve always admired the Hunger Games franchise’s ability to show the not-so-glamorous effects of war. The series always manages to remain topical, and Part 2 of Mockingjay explores the most relevant stuff to date. Gone are the Hunger Games, a deathmatch between tributes of all 12 districts, only mentioned in passing in this film, but their everlasting effects resonate all over Panem. Here is a nation that has had enough of tyranny, and its citizens are willing to go to desperate measures to end it.
In its depiction of the war-torn Capitol, Part 2 feels like a completely different film from the others. Katniss and her squad attempt to invade the Capitol, but are thwarted right and left by “pods,” little traps set by the Gamemakers (in a little mini-Hunger Games). These scenes give us most of the action, and boy is it good. One trap sets off a pool of black sludge that obliterates everything in its path, leading to some exciting sequences. Director Francis Lawrence has gotten confident in directing his team of young actors, and he can trust them to deliver in these scenes.
Unfortunately, Part 2‘s finale leaves a bit to be desired. After the consistent first half, ending in a brilliant wade through the sewers of the Capitol where our heroes are attacked by mutts (the clear highlight), the film sort of fizzles out. It’s here where most of the faults of the novel Mockingjay are really felt, as the film doesn’t have the impact that it should. There are many deaths throughout the film, many of them our favorite characters, but the film doesn’t seem interested in exploring the impact that these deaths have on our characters. I get that there isn’t much time to grieve, war isn’t pretty, etc. But this blasé attitude leads to a finale that just burns out. It all culminates in one of the most predictable final scenes I’ve ever seen. In reading the books, what Katniss does is unexpected, yet in the film it’s all too obvious. Leading dialogue and poor writing end up making what should be a shocking scene into one you’re just begging to be over.
None of this is the fault of the actors, though, who continue to flesh out these characters and make them well-rounded. Principally is Jennifer Lawrence, who has grown just like her protagonist. She goes from timid District 12 worker to defiant tribute to rebellious victor, and the transformation shows in Lawrence’s performance. She doesn’t exactly have “that scene” this time around, but Katniss has been beaten down by war, and Lawrence’s face shows that. Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson flesh out Katniss’s love triangle, and they continue to give solid performances, with Gale providing as Katniss’s sounding board and Peeta her rock, but they’re hardly the most interesting of the bunch. But Part 2 belongs to Donald Sutherland through and through. He sinks his teeth into President Snow, making a villain you love to hate. He’s so vile, so malicious, and an outstanding scene in his greenhouse (beautiful by the way) reveals new shades of his character.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is an uneven film, but it’s a fitting finale. Despite a weak final thirty minutes and an epilogue mainly designed to be fan-service, Part 2 is a culmination of the themes explored over the last four films. They’ve become commentaries for society in very accessible and teen-friendly ways. Great performances have given us new stars who we’ll definitely be seeing more from, and the Hunger Games’s legacy will definitely be paying dividends for years to come.