The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 concludes the four part series in epic fashion with spectacular set pieces that up the ante from the previous films despite being sandwiched between sluggish sequences that rob the film of the urgency it desperately wants to convey. After overcoming the odds and producing a surprisingly effective one-two punch with the first two entries (despite the shaky cam nuisance in the first film which gratefully disappeared soon after), The Hunger Games series ends up limping towards its conclusion, partly due to the adaptation of the the third book, the least well-received of the series, and the gratuitous split into two parts – a financially driven decision that has regrettably become vogue for last entries in such franchises (i.e. Harry Potter, Twilight).
Following directly on the heels of Part 1, the film opens with a devastated Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) reeling over the Capitol’s torture and brainwashing of an apparently recovering Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Determined to put an end to the war once and for all, she sets out kill the corrupt President Snow (Donald Sutherland) as the united districts attack the Capitol which is devilishly booby-trapped by the Hunger Games creators. Standing in her way is the dubious President Coin (Julianne Moore) who decides to use Katniss’ determination as a propaganda piece – or at the very least turn her into a martyr for the cause.
The film serves as a testament to how the unnecessary bifurcation of a story can hurt a film. There is a great film hidden within the folds of Mockingjay Part 1 & 2 that is overwhelmed by the protracted extension, forcing a viewer to endure rather than become engrossed. Watching the films back to back as a whole does not automatically fix this issue as some would attest. Mockingjay is a story than would have benefited from a leaner, more directed script and the split, unfortunately, ends up neutering the end product. By the time the film reaches it big twists towards it conclusions, they feel anticlimactic and predictable following all the build up spread thin between the two films.
That’s not to say that there isn’t much to admire in Mockingjay Part 2. The performances, especially by Lawrence, are top-notch and the brutality of their adventure leads to a few exhilarating moments such as a particularly savage trap involving a deadly, oil-like substance or a jarring underground sequence which seems like a savage deleted scene from The Descent. The film does touch upon a number of contemporary compelling themes such as the manipulation of the media and the cruel cost of “victory,” but it does not satisfy in the exploration of these subjects (unlike the first film which, on the other end of the spectrum, bluntly hammered its themes home through needlessly prolonged flashbacks making you wonder if your DVD copy had suddenly switched to an earlier chapter).
Rather, there is much focus on the current young adult fad of the “complicated” love triangle leading to an awkward, Twilight-esque confrontation between Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth as they try to decide what to make of their amorous plight. Although the scene isn’t played for laughs, it did lead to a fit of unintended giggles throughout my screening which is perhaps evident of how silly it is within the film’s overall sour atmosphere. There is barely any levity to be found throughout the picture which aims to produce a serious, bleak depiction of the consequences of war. In this environment, the cliche handling of the love triangle becomes preposterous and would have been better executed through subtly.
Overall, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 achieves a decent conclusion to the series. Although the film may not leave its viewers hungry for more (mostly due to sheer exhaustion), it’s well adapted enough to appease die hard fans of the novels and effective enough not to tarnish the series as a whole. Much of its success lies on the shoulders of Jennifer Lawrence who single-handedly elevates the material beyond the young adult standard, delivering a vulnerable, admirable young heroine that sets her far apart from her contemporaries. Without her strength, it is doubtful that the franchise would have continued as strongly as it did.