Nov 192015
 
 

Hunger Game MOCKINGJAY2_1SHT poster

Title: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence,
Josh Hutcherson,
Liam Hemsworth,
Woody Harrelson,
Donald Sutherland
Genre: Sci-fi, Action, War
Runtime: 2 Hours 17 mins
Music: James Newton Howard
Studio: Lionsgate
Certificate: US: PG-13
UK: 12A
Release Date: US: Nov 20 2015
UK: Nov 19 2015
See If You Like: The Hunger Games
War Games, What are they good for?

 

Ladies and gentleman we have arrived, it’s time for the final round of The Hunger Games. Since it’s debut in 2012 and given it’s poopoo’ed origins in Young Adult books, the franchise behemoth has attracted considerable media & fan attention, smashed box office records and launched the career of A-list female superstar Jennifer Lawrence. With the attraction of ‘Battle Royale meets Cube meets teen angst’, it’s not hard to see why it’s become a juggernaut in the teen-aimed book genre that adults can now access too, but does the gamble of taking the characters from their action roots and plunking them in the middle of an emotional war drama  for it’s finale pay off? A great big poignant yes.

With the uprising of the rebels of the various Sectors of Panem against the tyranny of the Capital – led by President Snow (Donald Sutherland, Crossing Lines) – taking to the streets, the Mockingjay herself – Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence, Serena) – makes her final play to bring an end to the revolutionary war. Teaming up with numerous rebel fighters and previous Hunger Game tributes, Katniss is at a crossroads as she struggles to understand her role in the war and finds the Capital has become a death trap with numerous mutants, soldiers and Pods gunning for her. As Katniss gets closer to eliminating Snow, she is faced with a moral choice in the middle of a war to decide the future of Panem.

Thinking Mockingjay Part 2 would be an action tour de force after the film of build we had in Part 1, it came as a slight surprise to watch a deeper and more emotion stirring war movie instead. You do get to see Hunger Games style offing of combatants one-by-one as a group of people go through a series of traps and dangerous opponents, yet after two whole films of seeing the actual Games concept in action, it’s proven tiresome; so the sideways step into the frontline of a War drama is a welcome departure.

It throws up some new challenges for Katniss to deal with; what happens after the war is over? is she on the right side? how far is she willing to go to end the war? and so on. All these big ideas are more than enough to make any other notable war film blush, as the grand scale of the war is bottled down to one person who can encompass all the questions as she struggles to find answers.

Katniss’ journey reaches it’s climax as we see her take that final step into become an actual soldier. Over the course of the series we’ve seen her go from substitute forced tribute to naturally talented archer, to A-list celebrity, to thorn in Capital & Snow’s side, to propaganda Mockingjay figure, to where we are now. Such a progression into one kick-ass yet emotionally believable female protagonist is more of what we want to see in Hollywood.

Mockingjay Part 2 hits Katniss on a personal level too. The trigger is finally pulled on her big love triangle with District 13 fancyboy turned soldier Gale (Liam Hemsworth, Cut Bank) and tribute lover cum Capital weapon Peeta (Joel Hutcherson, Escobar: Paradise Lost) as she has to make her mind up about who she wants to be with. Usually dismissible as teen angsty trash, the superb performances of the trio and the high stakes of a war going on in the background, manage to make this plot line rather grounded and human.

Director Francis Lawrence has a superb track record with big emotion-filled films having notable action sequences (see Water For Elephants and I Am Legend), and despite not being the main focus, the action doesn’t disappoint here; there are some cool urban warfare trap sequences; the sewer section with the Mutts are filled with genuine spine-scalding terror (even if  numerous jump scares tease their appearance too much); and that final crowd scene as Katniss and co. make it to Snow’s palace has a gut punch of emotion that will make you scream “NOOOOO!” at the screen no matter how many people are in the cinema with you.

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One major complaint comes from the fact there is literally no let up in the bleak misery of thematic depth, the big plot points, or the numerous slices of action. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the former (the grim escalation of the stakes  makes complete sense when the franchise turns into a war drama), but without any breather moments of lightness or comedy, it casts a heavy toll on the viewer as big and tragic as the body count we get from the film. Still, you can see why Francis was charged with taking the chair of three Hunger Games movies, and it’s only with this final outing he successfully marries the two aspects of action and emotion together into a worthy film to add to the resume.

Sadly, the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman (A Most Wanted Man) still hangs over the production and you can tell where his character of right-hand man Plutarch has been repositioned, yet his passing is noticeably a source of inspiration to some of the cast. You will get a bit teary when Woody Harrelson’s (Out Of The Furnace) Haymitch reads out a letter from Plutarch to Katniss in Woody’s best performance in years. The emotion seeping through onto celluoid is magnificent. It’s not just a random occurrence either, as he puts in strong moving displays earlier on in the film, made even more effective by the limited screentime he’s given.

Speaking of performances, the gathered cast of young hotness and old greatness combines to a level of brilliance you don’t see in hyped-up mega blockbusters like this. In fact, if it was not for the exceptionally high level of grouped acting we get here Mockingjay Part 2 would’ve earned a lower score. Whilst the places this films goes are eye-opening, terrifying and fruitful, you can’t just have any Tom, Dick or Harry play the characters who have to react to these events. With the previous cast members mentioned playing their roles to a tee, others don’t miss a beat; Julianne Moore (Seventh Son) plays insurgent President Coin wonderfully dodgy, willing to pass Katniss’ rebellious actions off as her own to make herself look good. Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect 2) lights up every scene she is in as Effie Trinket. If you’ve been waiting for Sam Clafin’s (The Riot Club) Finnick to go nuclear with his trident, you get it in this one. Psychopaths can learn a thing or two from Jenna Malone (Inherent Vice) as unbalanced Johanna Mason. All really great memorable roles.

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Whilst you could say most of the supporting characters barely get a look in, there are no pointless or irrelevant moments of time in this film; every character gets a fitting scene which adds to their personality or drama before the end. A just reward for those who have followed the franchise from the terrific start, through the lacklustre second outing and sat through the film of build to reach these worthwhile points.

Whilst it may not be the big blow-out action fest that most newcomer cinematic fans of The Hunger Games franchise want to see, a sideways step into the murky waters of philosophical war drama is an eye-opening experience with thematic depth (a reward for those who are open to change). Being the concluding chapter, Mockingjay Part 2 offers many revelations and thrills & spills in an emotional rollercoaster which, for better or worse, does not let up during it’s runtime. A gratifying conclusion to a young adult book adaptation franchise that for once managed to live up to it’s own hype (unlike it’s genre stablemates).

It is with great regret to say that The Hunger Games are finally over.

Terry Lewis@lewisonlife.

Verdict:
Ratings 09 Buy from Amazon.co.uk Buy from Amazon.com
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