The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

The Hunger Games franchise has been a revelation for young-adult cinema.  Dark and intelligent, it has taken issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and propaganda and put them on-screen for millions of teenagers around the world.  It’s also proven for any idiots out there that still believe otherwise, that a female character can lead an action series and still make shitloads of money.  With The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, that all comes to an end, as we find out whether Francis Lawrence can overcome the weakest book in the series to give us a satisfying conclusion.

Following the slow, dull and quite frankly a bit shit Mockingjay – Part 1this film sees Katniss Everdeen going to war.  The rebels are storming The Capitol in order to bring the fight to Donald Sutherland’s President Snow and Katniss, whether the Rebel’s leader President Coin (Julianne Moore) wants her to or not, is heading to the frontline.  Of course, things aren’t quite that simple.  Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is still recovering from the brainwashing The Capitol subjected him to in the last film and has a tendency to try to kill her.  While Gail (Liam Hemsworth) may have embraced the war effort a bit too much.  Finally, between her and Snow are thousands of pods, full of traps brought to us by the same people who gave us the Hunger Games first time round.

If you have never seen a Hunger Games film or read a book, this is not for you.  If you go by the theory that a film can’t be great unless it stands alone, then this will fail.  Much like Catching Fire and Mockingjay – Part 1, it only works as part of the series and that is a problem.  Even I, who had seen all the films and read the books twice each, had problems remembering certain characters names and what had happened to them last time round.

It also has to be said that while this is more intelligent than your standard young-adult fare, it still lands firmly on the nose at times.  When Gail declares that ‘war is war’ you may struggle to stiffle a laugh and the final scenes are all a bit too much.  There are also some plot points that don’t really work.  Little ideas, like this futuristic army allowing Finnick to go into battle with just a trident and not even a handgun for backup, don’t ring true.  While there are bigger moments, which are also spoilers, that fall down at the first sign of scrutiny.

What’s impressive, therefore, is that despite all these flaws.  Mockingjay – Part 2 is really good.  From start to finish the fast-paced action will have you on the edge of your street.  Set-pieces involving them making their way through a sewer system almost verge on horror and when it gets going, it is hard to not to get caught up in its bloodless carnage.

A lot of this is down to a sublime cast.  Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss and she slips into the role like it is a second skin.   It’s almost not worth pointing out that she is great, but of course, she is.  When the likes of Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci and Woody Harrelson are periphery characters, joining in for a couple of scenes each and being typically brilliant, you know you are onto something good.  Donald Sutherland’s delightfully evil Snow steals every moment he is in and is matched only by Julianne Moore’s complex Coin, whose motives you can never quite grasp.  Finally, it would be remiss to not mention Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose role in this movie is tiny, but subtly brilliant.  A scene in which Coin delivers a speech and he sits in the background becomes his, as his facial expressions say everything the audience is thinking.

The Hunger Games franchise has its flaws, but they are not worth focusing on.  Francis Lawrence has taken a series of good young-adults book and turned them into a series of great films for people of all ages.  Occasional weaknesses in the script are easy to blow over when they are delivered by actors at the top of their game.  Katniss Everdeen has become a hero to many and Mockingjay – Part 2 is a fitting end to her story.

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