Here we have the end of a franchise that initially I didn’t think I would like, but which I have been impressed with over the years. Yet another teen book sensation transitioned onto the big screen, and on the surface The Hunger Games (2012) seemed like a tween rip-off of the excellent Battle Royal (2000). However, it was so much more than what I was expecting and its sequel Catching Fire (2013) is one of those rare sequels that is better than its predecessor.
As Hollywood trends seem fit, the third and final book, Mockingjay, was split into two movies a la Harry Potter, Divergent and Twilight. But this trend generates more money for the studio and the audience gets more time with the characters and story that they love. Everyone (in theory) wins, although with Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) the audience was left hungry for more (pun intended).
As such Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) was a bit boring compared to Catching Fire (2013), showing mainly the resistance and the rebellion that was brewing. It was a great piece of propaganda, yet didn’t feature any really memorably action sequences and wisely focused on the characters and the tyranny of The Capitol. However, it was clear that it was just a build up for this entry where, as expected, it all kicks off in a big and brutal way.
If you haven’t seen the previous films then I recommend them. For one it would save me explaining the backstory and its characters, and I reckon if you watch all four back to back the transitions between films would be seamless.
Mockingjay – Part 2 takes place shortly after the events of Part 1 and an even more traumatised Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is still the propaganda tool of President Coin (Julianne Moore) and the face of the resistance. After the sudden attack from her fellow victor and love interest Peeta (Hutcherson) and having experienced so much loss and trauma over the last few years she is damaged and lost. With the resistance closing in on The Capitol, she takes it upon herself to assassinate President Snow (an excellent Donald Sutherland), hopefully ending the war and bringing peace and equality to the districts. With a band of past victors and resistance fighters she enters the now booby trapped streets of The Capitol in order to achieve her goal. But all is not what it seems and everyone is playing a part in someone else’s game.
I will firstly say that these films have all pushed the boundaries of what you can get away with in a 12A film, but this one pushes them even further. I know that 12-year olds these days are exposed to more than I was when was 12 (video nasties versus everything you can find on the internet), but this film is brutal and horrific. One thing I like about these films is that it shows the trauma of the events depicted, whether being in the games or in the war, time is taken to reflect on the effects on the characters and as such makes it a lot more believable and harrowing than, say, American Sniper (2014).
Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic in these films due to her her emotional portrayal of loss and post-traumatic stress – as well as her feistiness never to give up on those she loves. As the protagonist we want her to pull through towards a happy ending, but make no mistake this is not a happy film.
There seems to be a reflective zeitgeist in these films which is a reason why they are so popular. Youth without a future, segregation by regions and class, talk of revolution, famine, refugees, government controlled media, vastly abusive and faceless authority figures and a seemingly unreachable social stature where everyone lives in care-free luxury. I can go on for another 1000 words about how this film is a mirror of our times and the comparisons of the 1%, but these films utilise science fiction greatly as a tool to document current real world social issues. Just watch Battlestar Galactica (2004 – 2009) for another example.
But as I’ve mentioned this film shows the effects on all sides and at times it’s not easy to watch and simply shocking. But as an audience we get what we want as this is a thrilling and sometimes terrifying finale to a great cinematic saga. It is a satisfying conclusion to Katniss’ story and is now a complete franchise which shouldn’t be expanded on but be re-visited by audiences for years to come.
Lawrence is utterly convincing as the unwilling and damaged warrior who wants to bring justice to the land and seek vengeance against the man she sees as being responsible. Her love-triangle relationships with Gale (Hemsworth) and Peeta is still an important element, but both men have been changed by the war for better or worse and neither come across as the obvious hero or damsel.
Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jena Malone steal every scene they are in, and Woody Harrelson is great as always, adding some well needed humour to this film.
As with the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001 – 2003) we get a comedown ending where the pace slows down until the credits roll. Some may hate this and find it tedious; others will love that it spends the time to unwind after the thrilling pace of the film.
The question will always be which book series will be the next Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Narnia etc. and I’m looking forward to the next successful one. But the people producing these need to be faithful to the existing audience and bring in real talent in order to make a mark. For me this series has hit the bullseye and this may be the best entry.
Simply put this is one of the best war films I have seen and this is in part to the three movie build up. It is also one of the best science fiction franchises put to film and an excellent conclusion to the story, mixing elements of its predecessors along with those borrowed from films such as Aliens (1986) and The Battle of Algiers (1962). Despite its runtime it doesn’t sag and some of the new traps would make Saw (2004) proud. Great action, confident direction by Francis Lawrence and some great performances make this one of the best blockbusters of the year.
Overall Verdict: An excellent end to the franchise, incredibly tense and action packed making it one of the best war movies of recent years. Great performances all round and I enjoyed the hell out of it.
Reviewer: George Elcombe