A Final Journey’s End
And so “The Hunger Games” franchise comes to its end. Now all “Hunger Games” fans (like myself) can do is count the days down to the inevitable prequel that is no doubt being talked about in board rooms at Lionsgate (while they are more than likely begging Suzanne Collins to write another book). “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II” is the long awaited final installment. And, if the series has been showing any signs of fatigue in the previous feature, this holds on to its last remaining gasps. While I am still not entirely convinced we needed two features to tell the story of the Mockingjay I am however very pleased and happy with the poignant, bittersweet, and emotionally charge finale that “Mockingjay Part II” brings us. This film is no doubt an improvement over the previous entry but still doesn’t quite reach the heights of the first two installments thanks to a couple missteps along the way.
“Mockingjay Part II” picks up right where the last one left off with Peeta going through the trauma that was dealt to him in the capital. The rebels are prepping to make their final assault on the capital while Katniss is evermore determined to end President Snow’s reign. But, a booby trapped laid capital is in our heroes way. While her allies are not as they seem, she tries to keep her humanity alive as the war grows increasingly more hostile.
One would think after the slow burn of its penultimate counterpart, that “Mockingjay Part II” would be constructed with a frantic and action packed pace in mind. The runtime of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II” is largely made up of the Battle of Hogwarts. “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” is nearly all a giant battle. While most of the running time of “Mockingjay Part II” is made up of the assault on the capital, it is far quieter and slower paced then one would think. We follow Katniss and her band of entourage through the rubble of the city . The film stays fixated on that point of view. The squad starts off playing the political game of propaganda left over from the last film until all hell breaks loose for them. Katniss changes the mission from winning over loyalists to assassinating President Snow.
The pacing of the film is much improved from the previous entry. While the movie does have a tendency to slow down at parts it never feels like filler. Characters are explored and developed, tensions are raised and death is imminent for our heroes at every turn. With this being the last film the suspense (for those who haven’t the books) are high; as we know any of our heroes could “bite the dust” before the end of the runtime.
However when some of those characters do get killed on screen the film doesn’t take the time to slow down and give us a moment to morn those deaths. There are two major deaths that didn’t have the impact that I thought should have had especially one moment towards the end (book fans will more than likely know which part I am talking about). Director Francis Lawrence’s direction didn’t help capture the gravitas of the scene. Perhaps they were worried about pushing the PG-13 rating, but that’s just speculation because this film does get very violent at points especially for its intended audience (which isn’t a negative).
From my understanding the final novel doesn’t divert much away from the perspective of Katniss. I feel though that was a mistake. The majority of this film stays faithful to that point of view. With that, they never show much of the rebels attacking the capital. This is a pivotal moment in the universe and staying so close Katniss hinders the effect of knowing what the actions are of others because of her. By the end it is clear there is good and evil on both sides. But, this film would have been far more impactful if we got to see more of the Rebels and the Capital solider’s actions towards one another.
That all being said there are plenty of thrilling action sequences. Especially, the sewer sequence. Francis Lawrence uses similar techniques from his previous film, “I Am Legend”, and a touch of James Cameron’s “Aliens” to create one of the best sequences in the franchise.
The one thing that is clear, the franchise isn’t afraid to shy away from some harsh, tough and timely themes. “Mockingjay Part II” is no exception. There is a scene involving refugees trying to get into the capital that’ll make you think of the current refugee crisis from Syria (which this film obviously wasn’t making a direct comment on considering how far ahead the book and production was complete before this current crisis was occurring). There are moral questions being thrown around about the nature of war and if the ends justifies the means. Some truly horrible things happens to our main characters in the story. Some characters who we as perceive as good, turn out to be just as bad as the old regime. It’d be easy just to do a good versus evil story. But, “The Hunger Games” franchise (unlike its other Young Adult counterparts) are multilayered and have a much more real story to tell then the sums of its parts.
The last thing to touch on is the ending. “Mockingjay Part II” has a sort of “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” ending where the movie never seems to end. Just when you think it’s going to end, something else happens. Screenwriters Peter Craig and Danny Strong really try hard to make sure they wrap up all loose ends. Personally I felt the majority of it works even the epilogue. The film’s ending was bittersweet and in many ways it’s a sad ending. After watching all three films again leading up this finale, I felt this was great wrap up; it’ll leave you with a mix full of different emotions.
There is no sense in listing all the actors and how good their performances because they all deliver here. Jennifer Lawrence is outstanding in her last performance at Katniss Everdeen and even Josh Hutcherson impresses. Top to bottom all the actors bring their A-game.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II” is a really good last entry in the “Hunger Games” franchise. It may have a few flaws but it is still a good final ride that holds its head far above its other young counterparts. Did it need to be two parts? I’m not sure but even with the slightly dragging “Mockingjay Part I” each installment has been good and this is no exception.