Features Film

REVIEW: Mockingjay Part 2

Written by Mark Russell

The last of the four films based upon Suzanne Collins’ young adults dystopian novels The Hunger Games, titled Mockingjay Part 2, brings the epic story of Katniss Everdeen’s struggle for survival to a close in the most hard-hitting and soul-shattering way possible, and wraps up a very enjoyable quadrology. While the first film was a bit clunky and felt a little like a student film on a string budget, the rest of the films have upped the ante and proved to be very entertaining, engaging, and gripping adventures. I read the actual novel Mockingjay a couple of weeks ago, and I think the film has done a great job capturing the story’s drama and sense of the stakes at hand. I came out of this film an emotional wreck, despite knowing what was going to happen. It still rocked me to the core.

Warning, there are spoilers below. Read at your own discretion.

So, at the end of Mockingjay Part 1, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) was brutally attacked by the brainwashed Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), her friend/ally/televised lover, and this film immediately picks up with her recovery from Peeta’s attempt to strangle her. Jennifer Lawrence just hits it out of the park with her performance in this film. Unwilling to face Peeta during his therapy, Katniss’ suffering reaches boiling point and she decides to personally assassinate the evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland). While the first half-hour deals with the final stages of the rebellion and Katniss’ ongoing awkward love triangle between Peeta and her best friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), the rest of the film is dedicated to Katniss venturing to the Capitol to join a team of elite soldiers. While at first it is just to film more propaganda, it soons becomes a mission to eliminate Snow.

However, the group, consisting of Katniss, Gale, fellow Hunger Games victor Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), a camera crew, and a team of soldiers, face a number of problems. Snow has turned the whole city in a booby-trapped Hunger Games arena, making some parts of the city look like they are from Inception. The team is later joined by an unstable Peeta who is zoning in and out of his torture-induced psychosis. The road to Snow’s mansion is dangerous, treacherous, and at times, downright horrific. It’s a battle of life and death, where beloved characters will meet their ends, and the fate of Panem will be decided through the aim of the Mockingjay’s arrows.

Francis Lawrence returns to direct the film after Catching Fire and Mockingjay Part 1, and has done a grand job bringing the world of Panem to life. The balance of character growth and exciting action is handled well, but because, if like me, you have stuck around to watch all of these films, you will stay with these characters until the end. Katniss may not be the most likeable of protagonists, but her commitment to her loved ones and later the freedom of Panem make her a compelling character. It is also the perfomances from the individual actors that help make these films so enjoyable.

The first act’s pacing is a little rocky, jumping from scene to scene without much flow – one minute Katniss is recovering from her injuries, the next, she is flying off to liberate District 2. Then later on, we have a scene with President Snow’s inner circle is having dinner, which has some dark humour, then the film immediately cuts to the wedding of Finnick and Annie Cresta (Stef Dawson) which is all bright and merry, but still manages to pile on that sense of dread and woe that The Hunger Games is known for. We literally spend a minute showing Katniss and her sister Prim (Willow Shields) dancing and hugging, with the camera spinning around them. It made me dizzy.

Of course, it is the race into the Capitol that everyone is waiting for, which is rigged with all kinds of death traps from surprise flamethrowers to a big tidal wave of black gunge. Admittedly, most of the team accompanying Katniss are cannon fodder but when they either injured or killed off, I couldn’t help but feel for them. I think the most nerve-wracking scene involves the team navigating their way through the dark, cramped sewers. It takes a lot of inspiration from Aliens, and I felt extremely tense as the characters walk through the tunnels, knowing any second that rabid monsters would leap out to attack them. The sequence is well shot and they keep up the tension and drama really well.

One of the most heavy-hitting elements of the film is that it does not try to romanticize war. It is brutal, violent, bloody, cruel, and shows that all warring factions will stoop to low levels to turn the tide in their favour, as seen in the film in a particularly harrowing moment. And considering all that happened recently in the real world, it added an extra level of horror to it. However, a key character death in the film is a little underwhelming. I knew it was going to happen, but it just came so quickly, I was left slackjawed for about five minutes afterward. I felt more emotional and invested in this finale then I did with The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, and more connected to the characters.

Performances all around were wonderful. Jennifer Lawrence stole the show with her raw talent, able to show multiple levels of anger, grief, and sorrow all at once. Josh Hutcherson has been great in all these films and I really hope he doesn’t disappear off the face off the earth like Rupert Grint has done. I admit that Gale isn’t a very interesting or compelling character, but Liam Hemsworth did a good job. Donald Sutherland as President Snow was just brilliant, capturing the villain’s cruelty but charisma too, and he exited the film exactly as I imagined he would. The other perfomances from Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Jeffrey Wright, Jena Malone, Sam Claflin, and Natalie Dormer were great. But, the biggest applause goes to Philip Seymour Hoffman, a wonderful actor who passed away prior to the release of Mockingjay Part 1 and it was a little strange and sad to see him in the film.

People have complained about the last book being split in two, but I think it works well, not having to cram everything into two hours, as it would’ve meant a lot of character scenes would have been cut. I would’ve liked Joanna Mason (Malone) and Beetee (Wright) to have had more screentime, but there was a lot going on. Another complaint I have heard was that the ending dragged out, which I disagree with. The Return of the King has about five endings, though that isn’t a bad thing since those films are masterpieces.

It is sad that The Hunger Games are over, but all good things must come to an end. I hear that Lionsgate is trying to keep the franchise going but won’t do anymore unless Suzanne Collins gives them the go-ahead, and there is always the possibility of doing a prequel. There are seventy-three more Hunger Games to go through before Katniss arrives. Mockingjay Part 2 is a very enjoyable conclusion to the film franchise, and I hope people will look back on it favourably in the years to come.

Have you seen Mockingjay Part 2 and what are your thoughts on it? Was it handled well or was it a complete mess? Should more films be made? Leave a comment below or on our Twitter feed.

About the author

Mark Russell