And so we reach the dramatic conclusion to what has been quite a cinematic ride as The Hunger Games final instalment; Mockingjay - Part 2 lands in cinemas and we find out if Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and co. can unite the Districts and overcome the malevolent President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
There has been very little light in this astonishingly bleak, teen-led franchise and Mockingjay - Part 2 layers the solemnity on thickly with a trowel, sticking firmly to its guns to not sugar coat the atrocities of war for its Young Adult audience. With our heroine now firmly gripped by vengeful feelings towards Snow after his torture and brainwashing of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) she’s also beginning to sense that some on her own side wouldn’t be much of an improvement on the regime they’re fighting against.
Whilst the jury’s still out on whether we really needed the final book of Suzanne Collin’s trilogy to be sliced into two this second half is a vast improvement on its rather ponderous predecessor. Dear brainwashed baker boy Peeta still wants to kill Katniss after damaging her vocal chords in a surprise attack at the end of Mockingjay - Part 1. She in turn has her eye on assassination, ready to secretly march upon the Capitol as part of the ‘Star Squad’. This team of allies including Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Finick (Sam Claflin) are tasked with joining in at the tail-end of battles for the purposes of filming propaganda pieces. When District 13’s ambitious icy President Coin (Julianne Moore) has Peeta join with the Star Squad, Katniss’ suspicions about Coin’s own secret agenda deepens considerably.
Director Francis Lawrence has a great eye for action and the fiendish traps unleashed on our heroes are imaginatively realised. His action ace-in-the-hole set piece is a tense sewer scene which unleashes the relentless horror of countless terrifying mutts, resulting in some strong, scary scenes for the easily creeped out.
The love triangle between Katniss, Gale, and Peeta goes out not with a bang but a whimper, perhaps too slavishly faithful to its source material. Similarly a couple of key tragedies are dealt with swiftly and almost dismissively, at first leaving no time to mourn. This reaps dividends at the films end where the phenomenal Lawrence comes into her own, unleashing a powerful grief; that of someone irreparably altered and emotionally scarred by loss. Lawrence’s contribution to the series cannot be underestimated, without her natural, committed performance the more outlandish aspects wouldn’t ring quite so true and her electric showdown with the quietly menacing Sutherland is hugely rewarding.
As a powerful call to arms to a generation of young women, the impact of The Hunger Games series cannot yet be determined but The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 is undeniably a satisfyingly uncompromising end to a superior series that transcends it’s young adult origins. Exciting, moving and a fitting conclusion.