After being thrown a tedious Part 1, audiences are finally receiving the finale of what should have been a three film-long trilogy, rather than four. it's clear that the previous feature was meant to prolong the conclusion, even if it meant harming the momentum of the plot's evolving tension. While Lionsgate isn't the first to do this with a YA (young adult) novel series, it certainly made a bit more sense for franchises such as Harry Potter to make this move. Nevertheless, fans of The Hunger Games phenomenon will be extremely excited to see the adaptation of book three on the silver screen. Whether you're a casual viewer of the series who simply enjoys the ride or a massive fan, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 sends the series off with a bang.
Picking up from Part 1, the war of Panem continues to escalate. More destruction and death overwhelms other districts by the Capitol's hands, leaving Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) as the only symbol to bring together an army against President Snow. With Peeta (Josh Hutherson) in shambles and their cause hanging in the balance, Katniss must remain strong to change life for all in Panem.
Politics and war in this dystopian society continue to be major themes throughout the course of the film. Katniss is struggling in keeping herself together after Peeta was brainwashed into an assassination attempt, but President Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) continue to press her. They want to continue using her as the Mockingjay icon that will keep the forces motivated to fight forth. Katniss believes that she should be fighting along the battlefront with the rebels, but Coin and Plutarch try to keep her convinced to remain days behind the assault to simply create more propaganda videos. Katniss disagrees with many of the decisions made by President Coin and Plutarch, as every innocent life taken weighs on her heart little by little. She inevitably has a breaking point in which she goes rogue, although the heads of the movement play along with it, as the Mockingjay has proven numerous times that her unpredictability happens to be a strength.
Perhaps one of the biggest problems in Part 1 was its excruciating pacing. While there are a few lulls in Part 2, the majority of the film's duration is constant action. While there are no Games that take place, Katniss, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), and a team of other elite warriors begin to make their way towards President Snow's mansion in an assassination mission. The outermost portions of the Capitol have been evacuated, and traps have been set up around every corner. While district members aren't necessarily trying to kill one another, it still feels very much like the Hunger Games that took place in the first two entries. There are countless obstacles and creatures that they must overcome, and not everybody is going to make it out alive. However, the lulls mentioned earlier occur within the end of the second act, as the group seeks shelter and there are periods of time where we watch them take turns keeping watch. While this allows for some more conversation between Katniss and whoever else happens to be on watch, it certainly takes us out of a conclusion that should feel relentless.
We all know that Katniss, Peeta, and Gale are at the center of this story, and practically everybody else is expendable. Some of the supporting characters are merely tossed to the side and doomed with a surprisingly minuscule amount of screen time. As for the love triangle, it has been done in dozens of YA franchises, making it feel more like a necessity to generate fandom than it does integral to the story. Nevertheless, the screenplay handles it better than most. There isn't as much stress placed upon it, as survival and victory are appropriately stressed as being more important goals in this finale. When it is discussed, it feels a lot less like the laughable rivalry found in the likes of Twilight, and more like a grounded look at two young men in love with the same woman. Gale and Peeta share a conversation when they believe that Katniss is asleep that perfectly frames how the franchise is noticeably more mature than most of the other love triangles out there.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Jennifer Lawrence is great as Katniss Everdeen. The Oscar-winner continues to display a wealth of complexity and emotion. There are numerous subtle moments in this performance that make the central character a lot easier to relate with. Josh Hutcherson delivers a bit more range as Peeta compared to previous entries. Liam Hemsworth is given a bit more to do as Gale, but his performance occasionally comes across as feeling a bit strained. Supporting performances from Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as President Snow, President Coin, and Plutarch are all strong. There's a lot of impressive talent here, and they certainly aren't put to waste.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 is definitely the most visual effects heavy entry in the series. The war is displayed in all of its glory on a much larger scale than before. Some of the CG work has a digital gloss that feels a bit too heavy, but otherwise it looks good. Much like the rest of the series, this final entry pushes its PG-13 rating to the limits, as the action can be quite brutal, although it remains mostly bloodless. The sound design here is quite strong, especially as the elite group walk through the city. Director Francis Lawrence utilizes some horror techniques, as he builds tension in a familiar way, with jump scares and all.
After an incredibly underwhelming Part 1, it's great to see the series return to form. It's everything that a finale should be: engaging, fun, and epic. The stakes feel massive, giving the action a point. The moral conflict occurring within Katniss certainly draws sympathy, yet her strength continues to be empowering. Clocking in at 137 minutes, I still found myself absorbed by the film's adventure and moral dilemmas. It's a more mature YA series that transcends other recent franchises targeting the same audience, including Twilight and Divergent. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 is a strong way to close out the series. Katniss and her deadly adventures will certainly be missed. Highly recommended!