Since the runaway success of Harry Potter, young adult novel adaptions have been the cash of the crop for Hollywood and few attempts have been as successful as Katniss Everdeen and The Hunger Games series. After two entries welcomed with critical acclaim and box office success, Lionsgate decided to split the finale into two parts which led to more mixed reactions across the board. Does Mockingjay Part 2 deliver on the promise laid down by its predecessor or was this conclusion better suited as a trilogy?
Mockingjay Part 2 picks up immediately after the events of the previous film as Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) recovers from her attack from Peta (Josh Hutcherson). Katniss decides she wants to take her fight against the capitol back to the battlefield for a final assault on the capitol. Despite misgivings from President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Katniss decides to go on a rogue mission to assassinate President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in order to obtain justice and end the war.
What is immediately noticeable about the film is its nonchalant opening set directly after the conclusion of part one which feels a bit anti-climactic to say the least. Breaking the film into two parts was always going to be a challenge given the second act ending in the first film and the result isn’t any less clunky. The biggest hurdle this move fails to overcome is feeling like an incomplete second half of a movie. The film could have shaved an extra thirty minutes off its runtime and served as a final act all on its own.
Once the film kicks into high gear sometime around the second act, the story really delivers a number of high impact scenes as a means to highlight the themes that have been running through the heart of the series since the beginning. There’s a hopeless sense of dread filling the screen from beginning to end as Katniss witnesses loss, destruction, betrayal, and the toll of war on her soul. This is one of the more honest portrayals of violence in the recent slew of young adult novel adaptions and the execution is nothing short of admirable.
What really sets this series apart from other adaptions in the genre(Harry Potter included) is its darker themes of the brokeness of corrupt government, survival of the fittest, and mankind’s thirst for brutality and vengeance. All throughout the series Suzanne Collins found interesting ways to incorporate these ideas in a way teens could relate, but ultimately the phoned in conclusion to the novel Mockingjay robbed these ideas of proper resolution. Luckily director Francis Lawrence and the writing team take advantage of the second chance to flesh out the conclusion in a way that feels organic. Mockingjay Part 2 doesn’t leave on a happy ending teen audiences have become accustomed to, but rather concludes on a somber note filled with melancholy character beats. While it may not be the feel-good ending of the year, it does leave the series with a sense of fulfillment that book readers likely did not encounter.
The entire cast is back and firing on all cylinders with Josh Hutcherson delivering several of the most memorable moments of his early career. Jennifer Lawrence continues to do her Katniss schtick to perfection all the way through the film’s closing moments where she delivers some of the most reflective work since her breakout performance in Winter’s Bone. The supporting cast doesn’t fail to impress thanks to diabolical turns from both Donald Sutherland and Julianne Moore. Even when some of the dialog comes across clunky, every actor brings their A-game to the ensemble
Director Francis Lawrence came on board starting with Catching Fire and each one of his films have been more atmospheric than the one before and this film is no exception. Like the story, the art direction is grim and the color palette is filled with shades of gray. Color is used sparingly to subvert the symbols of privilege and power to great effect. These artistic choices in the direction are small but go a long way in realizing the world Collins crafted in the source material.
It may not be the strongest entry of the franchise, but Mockingjay Part 2 delivers a fitting conclusion pretty in line with the series as a whole. Its meatier thematic material is often hung up by clunky writing, but the final product still delivers a compelling story designed to push its audience.