Considering that Mockingjay – Part 1 consisted almost entirely of set up for the closing chapter of the Hunger Games series, Part 2 picks up directly where its predecessor left off at a markedly plodding pace. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and her army of rebels are banding together for the final assault on the Capitol and its dastardly leader, President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Rather than being thrust into the meat of the story, we do of course however have to meander through the usual love triangle between Katniss, the obviously better choice Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and the unhinged and mopey Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), with one or two more rallying cries from Katniss, the likes of which we’ve come to expect from a Hunger Games movie, thrown in for good measure.
It’s once we’ve skipped past these obligatory milestones that Mockingjay – Part 2 settles into a rhythm, with the rebels forcing their way through the streets of the Capitol, encountering a series of “pods” (insanely dangerous traps) set up by the Capitol’s game makers under the watchful eye of Snow. Only a mad man would think that the “pods” would be the best solution to a rebellion, but as always Donald Sutherland brings enough gravitas and conviction to the table that you can’t help but agree that it’s a perfectly reasonable response. “Welcome to the 76th annual Hunger Games”, as Finnick (Sam Claflin) so cheerfully puts it.
The gauntlet of challenges Snow lays out for Katniss and company ramps things up nicely, including an underground sewer scene which marks not only the highlight of the film, but arguably of the series as a whole. Sadly thought it’s cut short just as the pace is picking up, by a moment which should have packed the biggest of gut punches, but instead finds itself lacking. It should have made more or less all of the franchise’s previous emotional beats pale into insignificance, but in comparison to the death of Rue in the first of the films it doesn’t hold up. Which is a shame, as time seems to have been spent unwisely on certain, less important, moments of the film, whereas it emotionally undercuts itself at other times with rushed key character moments. Four films in I was ready to be opening floodgates of emotions come the conclusion, but all I got was a modestly trickling tap.
Though not hitting the emotional satisfaction levels of its predecessors, the scale of the film is grand as ever, and the cast are suitably on form. I’d have liked to have seen more of Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch, and the likes of Sam Claflin’s scene-stealer Finnick and Natalie Dormer’s Cressida could perhaps have been utilised and explored further, but Jennifer Lawrence again shows us why she’s the headliner of the series. Julianne Moore’s conniving and manipulative President Coin is great, and that big old softy Peeta has his finest hour thanks to Josh Hutcherson – empty, shaken, and loving in equal measure. A quick mention should also go to the late, great, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Plutarch Heavensbee, who is unavoidably, but nonetheless noticeably absent from portions of the film, despite the best efforts of director Francis Lawrence to find a “work around”. I suppose an absence as big a Philip Seymour Hoffman’s was never likely to go unnoticed.
With the foundations for Mockingjay – Part 2 already efficiently laid out for it heading in, and the majority of the leg work already done to get to this point, it’s difficult to shake off the feeling that it could have been something special. It’s not, in the end, but it is worth a recommendation, as are the previous films in the series. Sure, Mockingjay could have been just the one film. Perhaps one great film. Ultimately we get two good films, and Lionsgate makes bucket-loads of extra cash. A win-win situation? Perhaps, perhaps not.
Not the most emotionally profound of the Hunger Games films, yet the large scale warfare, a handful of great set pieces and the excellent Jennifer Lawrence combine to make Mockingjay – Part 2 a largely fitting final chapter.
Rating (out of 5):