October had Spectre. December has the behemoth Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And November gets Mockingjay part 2. Each month seems to have been designated a substantial blockbuster to satisfy the public’s appetite for franchise hits – and we are so grateful to the movie Gods for that.
However, fans can expect to see the adventures of martini-guzzling spy’s and epic lightsaber duels for the foreseeable future. It’s sadly one girl’s battle for social equality in the dystopian civilisation of Panem that has come to an end. Our beloved heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) dons her quiver and Mockingjay pin one last time, with revenge fuelling her mission to take down her kingpin oppressor President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
In a time where young-adult fiction has become a tapped goldmine for cinematic success, it is Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games franchise that stands as the victor in this particular arena of adaptations. Somehow managing to defy market expectations, the series has broadly appealed to both women and men of all ages – not just the teenage girl bracket like some other franchises that will remain nameless. Anyone that has read the books will have a pre-existing knowledge that the third book Mockingjay had a vastly different tone and agenda than her previous two instalments; The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.
Director Francis Lawrence certainly adheres to the thematic elements at play in the novel and whilst Part 2 certainly has a more engaging plot than Part 1, its overly-stretched third act diminishes the films efforts to close the story with aplomb timing.
Part 2 kicks off with Katniss battered and bruised by the brainwashed hands of an enraged Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). With tracker-jacker venom poisoning his previous memories of Katniss, the once sweet and humble Peeta has now become President Snow’s greatest weapon in destroying ‘the girl on fire’. However with almost all of the districts of Panem now fighting for the rebels cause, now is the time for Katniss and the rest of squad 451 to advance on the Capitol and attack. Within the team includes fan-favourite Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Cressida (Natalie Dormer), Finnick (Sam Claflin), Boggs (Mahershala Ali) and Pollux (Elden Henson).
Amongst a handful of others is a wildcard late-addition Peeta who has been sent directly by leader of the rebels; President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). It is clear that even though Katniss’ regime is to bring down the corrupt Marxist system, Coin still has other plans for Katniss after her job as the Mockingjay is completed. There are rumblings that the path to this “new society” that Coin speaks so regularly of, may not be laid out with the best of intentions.
A major complaint of Part 1 was that audiences found it completely devoid of any action that wasn’t shown in the trailer. To many, it was a very dry and slow instalment compared to its predecessors because of the lack of an actual ‘Hunger Games’. Thankfully, part 2 provides a twist on the typical games narrative ensuring for a much more exhilarating viewing experience. As a pre-emptive tactic to defend the Capitol, Snow has the sadistic Gamemakers line the streets surrounding his mansion with deadly “pods” or booby traps, designed to kill unsuspecting intruders in the most horrific ways imaginable.
The assault on the Capitol becomes a very thrilling and intense game of survival with many of the beloved rebels reduced to cannon fodder. The most nerve-wracking encounter occurs in the subterranean sewers when the squad battles with an army of ferocious lizard-like “Mutts”. It’s a very well crafted sequence that packs an emotionally explosive punch.
The problem with this film comes after the abrupt end of the battle when the third act starts tying up all the loose ends. Whilst the script penned by Peter Craig and Danny Strong remains very loyal to the source material, one can’t help but feel the closing scenes don’t necessarily flow consistently into one another. There are notably different tonal shifts in each concluding scene which don’t allow the viewer enough time to absorb the full emotional effect of each unveiling moment. A scene of heartbreaking grief is proceeded by an execution which is then swiftly followed by a touching goodbye note to the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman (he had died during filming so some of his scenes were altered in his absence). It’s all a bit higgledy-piggledy in its final act; however its ending does provide a glimmer of hope in an otherwise cruel and barbaric series.
One can’t fault the performances of the stellar A-list cast. This is wonderfully satisfying send-off for the role that made Jennifer Lawrence a feminist icon, as well as her young co-stars Hutcherson, Hemsworth and sister Prim (Willow Shields). Even those with severely limited screen time such as Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), Effie (Elizabeth Banks) and Joanna (Jena Malone) all are given their moment to allow fans closure for their contributions to the franchise.
Despite a few script and pacing problems within the final act, Mockingjay part 2 is a thoroughly enjoyable ride with nail-biting action, genius political commentary and a surprising amount of heartbreak. Suzanne Collins work has become the stuff of a pop-culture phenomenon and this adaptation has done it justice. Mockingjay Part 2 is now available in cinemas nationwide.