The Hunger Games: Mock­ing­jay Part 2

Games over

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents - Jor­dan Far­ley

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.

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