The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
The film with the awfully long title occupies more page space.
released OUT NOW! 12a | 137 minutes Director Francis lawrence Cast Jennifer lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, liam Hemsworth, donald sutherland, Julianne Moore
Harry Potter has a lot to answer for. The infuriatingly unnecessary trend of splitting final books into two films may be a major money-spinner, but it rarely reaps creative dividends. Take last year’s Mockingjay Part 1, a plodding and largely meritless chapter in the Hunger Games saga which sullied the sterling standard set by the first two films. Fortunately, Mockingjay Part 2 finds the series back on target.
Though the rebels are engaged in a propaganda war for hearts and minds, this time it really is war as, led by Julianne Moore’s President Coin, they march on the Capitol and Donald Sutherland’s Machiavellian President Snow. Katniss, Gale and a still-not-quite-right-in-the-head Peeta are sent in well behind the front lines with an elite group of soldiers dubbed Star Squad, to capture moraleboosting footage for broadcast during the assault. Katniss has every intention to go off mission and assassinate Snow, but with sadistic booby traps on every block things are more dangerous than ever for The Girl On Fire.
The Hunger Games has never shied away from treacle-dark drama, but Mockingjay Part 2 is easily the series’ bleakest instalment. There’s a bodycount and bloodlust that would be shocking in a first-person shooter, pushing the limits of the 12A certificate. But it’s as much about the effect of violence on young minds as it is about the physical aftermath. You get the sense that, even if they make it out alive, a happy ending is all but impossible for these characters – daring stuff for a mainstream franchise.
The film also injects a flavour of the actual games back into proceedings after murderous theatrics sat out Part 1, with the deadly “pods” that line the streets turning the Capitol itself into an arena of death, with events beamed to screens and declared “mandatory viewing”. It’s a welcome addition. An extended sequence set in a subterranean sewer is claustrophobic and impressively intense, as Katniss and co are hounded by a new breed of zombie-like mutts. They’re the series’ most unsettling creation, director Francis
Part 2 finds the series back on target
Lawrence finally making amends for messing up the zombie-wannabes of I Am Legend.
As you might expect at this stage, Jennifer Lawrence carries the series’ substantial weight on her shoulders with ease. Katniss is battle-scarred and psychologically wrecked before the action even kicks off, and Lawrence perfectly conveys the character’s steelyeyed determination and everpresent vulnerability. Sutherland is also superb; his hiss-worthy Snow could turn pantomime at a moment’s notice, but remains believably evil. Anyone outside the central love triangle doesn’t get much of a look in though, even major players such as Finnick and Primrose, while the new additions to the cast barely register.
Other niggles: that love triangle feels more irrelevant to the real meat of the story than ever, and the brutally swift violence means that some major deaths whizz by with barely a moment of acknowledgment. The ugly split that left Mockingjay Part 1 all set-up with no payoff has repercussions here as well, with a few too many scenes featuring people nattering away in abandoned buildings causing the film to occasionally sag when it should soar.
Despite these problems, this is about as good a sendoff for Katniss and Panem as you could hope for. Given Hollywood’s continuing reluctance to cast female action leads and the uncompromising subject matter, the odds couldn’t have been in its favour, but this final chapter, and the series as a whole, has achieved a decisive victory.
Danny Strong, who co-wrote both Part 1 and Part 2, also played “Geek trio” nerd Jonathan in Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
“This is no time to fiddle with your cello.”
The window cleaners got serious.