Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Sam Claflin, Natalie Dormer, Mahershala Ali, Woody Harrelson, Jena Malone with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Donald Sutherland
Plot: Angered at the traumatised remains of Peeta (Hutcherson), Katniss (Lawrence) demands to be put on the front-line to assassinate President Snow (Sutherland).
It is a nice change of pace to have a movie franchise that actually ends. Too many blockbusters these days are always hanging onto the possibility of a sequel (Marvel, Fast and Furious, Mission Impossible). It is a welcome feeling sitting down to watch Hunger Games, knowing that, despite how beloved these characters and this universe is, we are going to get some form of closure. For all of its flaws, Mockingjay Part Two is a fitting ending to one of the better Young Adult series out there.
I hate that term: Young Adult. It doesn’t do Hunger Games justice in the slightest. Yes, despite having stars like Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson and Donald Sutherland, the show’s main focus is its cast of twenty-somethings. And yes, there is a mandatory romantic crisis (the final Hunger Games film continues the trend of making the love triangle situation here pointless and tiresome). But the Hunger Games books and films are so much more than a fluff piece of film-making for the teenagers to coo over. Hunger Games tells the story of a world so corrupted by war, it sinks into every crevice of the nation. The reason I fell in love with the first Hunger Games movie, despite its many flaws, was the fact it create a world where war was desensitised by the media’s portrayal of it, something I found endlessly interesting. Here, the theme follows on from the last Mockingjay movie, where Julianne Moore manipulates the news to convince rebels to die for her cause. Katniss spends the first half hour of Part Two trying to convince Moore’s President Coin to let her join the war on the Capitol. She has found herself, despite being the war’s most valuable hero, unable to fight because she is too important to risk dying. Her death on the battlefield would end up demotivating the rebels, pretty much handing Snow the war, meaning that Katniss is stuck in a helpless, waiting-on-the-sidelines state. However, because Katniss is as stubborn as a mule and a movie spent watching her take up baking back home would make for a pretty terrible finale, she manages to dupe her way into the fight. Even then, the movie questions how much she actually does to help. We get this fighting unit, the cherry-picked characters from the series (Mahershala Ali, Natalie Dormer, Katniss’s boyfriends), are primed to go to war and then finding themselves posing as heroes, rather than fighting. Their mission is not to battle the enemy, but to follow the main army a few days behind, filming propaganda footage in the aftermath of every war zone. Once again, director Lawrence questions the truth of military documentaries and how these lies trickle down to the soldiers and public. To hammer the point home, the bad guys are using the same dirty tactics. A lot of the bigger picture is explained to the audience via carefully constructed and censored news flashes from either side. Quite often Mockingjay is taking both the Capitol and the rebels and asking the audience: are they both as bad as each other? Hunger Games might be a fantasy world, but its moral debate is just as relevant with our society as it is theirs.
It is a shame that, for the most part, Mockingjay Part Two is a pretty disappointing movie. It is never quite bad, with some solid performances from Jennifer Lawrence (did you expect any less?), Sam Clafin and a memorable farewell from Phillip Seymour Hoffman, quietly stealing the show with the briefest flicker of a knowing smile. It boasts some neat set-pieces, the best being a fight in a square with rising oil dragging the small group of soldiers into gruesome death traps. However, the movie never quite excites, so concerned with giving Jennifer Lawrence some weighty material to act with, hammering home its views on war and finishing the damn story, that it forgets to include the light-hearted fun that made Hunger Games so exciting in the first place. Its big fight scene is a chase in the sewers with creatures pulled straight from another movie (squint and you will know I am thinking of a specific movie), which clashes with everything we have seen before from the series. The ending never shocks. Its big tragedy seeing the film off is brushed over surprisingly quickly and by the time it hits, it is too close to the ending to properly revel in its misery. The other shock is predictable (albeit fun). After that, Francis Lawrence and the writers plod around, buying time until the closing credits. Like Return of the King, Hunger Games goes out on an awkward shuffle, never quite sure when to actually end the story. This is the part of film-making, when you are allowed to ignore segments of the books, not blindly make the same mistakes. Perhaps its biggest crime is leaving its best characters on the side-lines. Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Jena Malone have simply run out of things to do, popping up because they are fan favourites, but doing nothing for the story. Even those characters in the thick of the action are strangely undeveloped. Natalie Dormer’s Cressida spends a lot of the movie in all the big scenes, but out of focus. Francis Lawrence is far more concerned with giving Jennifer Lawrence as much to do as possible, sadly spending most of the time not discussing the main plot, trying for a last ditch attempt to make the audience care for either Peeta or Gale. It fails.
Final Verdict: Not quite satisfying, but a decent enough close to this series. Light on the fun, but some decent discussions on war and media are brought up.