The decision to split the final installment of the trilogy into two parts causes some problems with pacing. Where Catching Fire packed a huge amount of plot into two and a bit hours, Mockingjay instead divides a similar story arc down the middle, separating the exposition from the resolution. For those who last saw Mockingjay Part 1 in cinemas a year ago, there’s a lot you’re expected to remember in the first few minutes of this finale.
After an unnecessary diversion to blow up a mountain, Katniss and co join the final attack on the capital. The nefarious President Snow has had his game-makers rig the whole city with elaborate and entertaining traps because apparently just pointing those weapons at the invaders and shooting them is too easy. Thus ensues fun with flamethrowers, miniguns, and weird oil stuff, and ensures the film lives up to its title, giving the war the same feel as the Hunger Games from earlier films.
Jennifer Lawrence continues to be a captivating and dominating heroine. She manages to make Katniss fearless and driven while still being caring and relatable. Her performance is sure to be remembered as one of the great movie heroes. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of most other characters fighting alongside her. Some of the key players from previous films, such as Finnick (Sam Claflin) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), have their parts reduced to just a handful of lines, and their arcs lack some of the closure they perhaps deserved. Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta also feels a little under-served: still recovering from the brain-washing he was subjected to in Part 1, he never really gets to be the Peeta that Katniss fell for in the first films. One nice touch, however, was a well-placed and touching tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman in the film’s denouement.
The action lives up to the fun and exciting standard set by previous films in the series. One particular section in the sewers beneath the city stands out as a highlight, a fast-paced, tense gauntlet of beasties and traps that is one of the best scenes in the whole trilogy. The tone is darker than the previous movies, and the level of violence is rather shocking for its teen-friendly rating, avoiding a stronger rating only by hiding some of the gore off-screen. It’s probably not going to shock too many in the target audience, but parents of younger children should be warned.
The film felt somewhat disjointed towards its conclusion, where Katniss’ bid to take the capital comes to an abrupt end. It’s such a sudden shift that there were a few minutes where I was left wondering if the whole film had slipped into a dream sequence. In retrospect, though, it was the right ending, giving a level of symmetry to how the series began.
The finale of The Hunger Games is not without its flaws, but overall the film is very enjoyable. It would likely benefit from being watched as a double feature with Part 1, but this is a fitting conclusion to one of the decade’s biggest and most successful franchises.
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