The worst decision the mostly consistent “Hunger Games” movie franchise made was splitting its final chapter in two. And yet, it still managed to (mostly) come out on top.
“Mockingjay — Part 2,” the final “Hunger Games” movie, is a solid and fitting conclusion to a great series. And while it might not stand perfectly on its own, it feels like exactly the ending that this story needed.
One issue this franchise has faced is with its cliffhangers. Each of the movies, no matter how good, felt like it ended so abruptly. “Mockingjay — Part 1” literally ends in the middle of a scene. The good part about this is that it allows “Part 2” to jump right into the action.
At the start, the long-awaited revolution begins. But before it can fully get going, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) needs to snap out of a brutal brainwashing, and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) needs to recover from her injuries. It’s representative of how powerful this character is that she still seems like the strongest person in the world even with damaged vocal cords preventing her from giving a rousing speech or bursting into song.
Once she gets better, Katniss sort of returns to the frontlines of battle. President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his last film appearance) lead troops to the Capitol in hopes of finally overthrowing President Snow (Donald Sutherland). For better or worse, “Mockingjay” is paced sort of like the “Lord of the Rings” movies: There is a lot of wandering with pit stops including battle scenes that are worth the wait.
“Mockingjay — Part 2” emphasises that this is probably the darkest young-adult series ever put on film. The “Hunger Games” movies include an incredibly healthy dose of cynicism while also including the requisite love triangle. It’s not something you often see in movies targeted at teenagers. A lot of the colourful ceremony sequences from the previous films have been replaced by the landscape of the Capitol, which looks like a Chinese ghost city.
The biggest reason that “Mockingjay — Part 2” is such a satisfying conclusion is because it feels like every theme and every bit of character development from the previous films were actually building up to something. The “Hunger Games” movies are partially about revolutions fought through propaganda rather than violence. Even though some bombs are going to be dropped, the key to winning Panem is symbolism.
Here, Katniss is told not to fight and instead be the face of the revolution. This is an interesting challenge to “The One” narratives that make up most popular blockbusters, from “Star Wars” to “The Matrix.” Katniss, the supposed chosen one, is told that she was nothing more than “a face in the crowd.” But in a stellar twist, she proves us wrong. And with this narrative, “The Hunger Games” series proves itself to be much smarter than people give it credit for.
One of the greatest buildups here is watching the actors evolve. As Peeta, Hutcherson has become much more confident of himself. He never seemed like the kind of guy who could tell it like it is until “Mockingjay — Part 2.”
Then, of course, there’s Jennifer Lawrence, who’s filled Katniss with so much humanity over the past three years. There is a scene in “Mockingjay” where the ever-strong Katniss finally breaks down. It is a reaction that is both genuine and overbearing. It is the kind of moment that looks physically exhausting.
Again, “Mockingjay — Part 2” might have been better if it had been combined with the weaker “Part 1.” And yet, even when “Part 2” had a lot of action to get through, it still managed to get to the heart of what makes “The Hunger Games” a surprisingly thoughtful blockbuster.
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