Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Peter Craig, Danny Strong
Although I’ve never been a particularly big fan of the Hunger Games series I still had relatively high expectations going into this film. I think that it is a decent series overall (I particularly enjoyed Catching Fire), it just hasn’t really ever captivated me in the way it has with its most ardent fans. Despite the gripes that I have with the series though, I do nevertheless think that it has done a good job of establishing its universe, it has an interesting concept with some clever twists added in and there are some good characters in there as well. When I saw Mockingjay – Part 1 last year however I started to develop one major concern. While Part 1 was a solid enough film I wasn’t readily convinced that there was enough plot in there to justify splitting the finale into two. Therefore I wanted to reserve my judgement until I saw this film. Having now seen it I found Part 2 to be a solid and enjoyable film like its predecessor but I stand by my judgement that there wasn’t enough story to warrant a two part finale.
As the rebellion against the Capitol escalates, the Mockingjay Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) tries to help the brainwashed and traumatised Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) in his recovery. Enraged by the brutality of this war and frustrated with being used by Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) as a poster child for the rebellion, Katniss takes matters into her own hands by undertaking a mission to assassinate President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Helping her in this endeavour are such allies as Gail (Liam Hemsworth), Cressida (Natalie Dormer) and Finnick (Sam Claflin). As they make their way to the Capitol they must combat foes and obstacles reminiscent of those they faced in the Hunger Games. The closer she gets to her goal the more must Katniss question what it is she is fighting for and how much she is willing to sacrifice to end this war once and for all.
I must confess that I am quite ambivalent about this film. On one hand I can’t deny being disappointed by the film’s conclusion. Based on how the film was advertised I was expecting something much more epic like The Deathly Hallows – Parts 2. I won’t give too much away but, simply put, that’s not what happens. The final showdown ends up being something altogether different that to me initially felt underwhelming. In the weeks since I’ve watched it though I’ve thought more about the film’s resolution and must admit that it is actually a fitting end to the series. I thought more about some of the themes that the series has touched upon in its prior films: the role of propaganda in war, the idea that things are not what they seem and the balance between control and freedom. In light of these themes the ending that the film opted for (I should probably note that I haven’t read the books) does make a lot of sense and is in keeping with the ideas raised. It was certainly a bold move to opt for a more challenging ending than the more traditional epic showdown and I must applaud this series for having that kind of tenacity.
Putting the ending aside though there were still a few issues I had with the film that still bother me now. My main issue is the very fact that this film is the second part of a story that I really don’t think needed to be split. The film that I think suffered more from this split was Part 1 since its sole purpose was essentially to set up this film, resulting in a lack of action and progression. Part 2 meanwhile has plenty of both so there was much more for me to enjoy. Some of the dangers that Katniss and her team encounter are certainly thrilling to watch (I wasn’t a fan of those sewer monsters though) and the threat of danger is very present throughout. Some members of the cast, most notably Lawrence, Hutcherson and Sutherland, do shine in this film while others are woefully underused. While the film was able to convey a sense of dread and finality I did think that many of the major character deaths were lacking in emotional weight.
I suppose this film is something of a mixed bag for me but I certainly don’t think it is a bad film by any means. I think the reason I didn’t enjoy it as much as many others have is simply because I wasn’t a huge fan of the series to begin with. This isn’t to say that I disliked it but rather that I wasn’t as invested in the fate of the characters or the outcome of the rebellion as others were. Therefore, while I didn’t find myself particularly excited or moved by this film, I have no doubt that those who are fans of the series will find much to enjoy. Those who want to see how the story ends and where the characters end up will I think be satisfied. It is a good enough film in its own right and is a fitting end to the series.