The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 may be the final part of a bestselling young adult trilogy, but this is a film inspired by an author who isn't going to let spectacular action drown out a serious political message. While Mockingjay Part 1 cast a suspicious eye over propaganda as a tool to entice people in to war, Mockingjay Part 2 takes a sharpened scalpel to the tactics and ethics of fighting an actual war.
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is virtually voiceless as the film opens, still bruised from the brainwashed Peeta's (Josh Hutcherson) chokehold at the end of the previous film. District 13's President Coin (Julianne Moore) remains busy pulling the strings behind the scenes while Katniss is wheeled out to the districts to continue her role as a symbol of the revolution. Though Coin is increasingly keen to keep the Mockingjay on the sidelines, it isn't long before two-time arena survivor turned freedom fighter Katniss decides to take the battle right to President Snow's door, by leading a small group through the Capitol on a suicidal assassination mission.
It sounds exciting, and anyone disappointed that Mockingjay Part 1 was too slow, or too stuffed with filler, will probably be pleased with the amount of action in Part 2. Even so, it takes a while to get going, with Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones’ Brienne) only appearing in a single scene, but this scene being a notably thoughtful and interesting discussion of the rights and wrongs of killing innocent people during war. It is one scene of many in Mockingjay that sends out some mixed messages, but author Suzanne Collins' original caution of authority and anti-war stance eventually emerges unscathed.
Key here is one of the most emotive moments in the entire trilogy that comes close to the end of this final film. Though director Francis Lawrence has handled most of the second and third books brilliantly, he slightly fumbles one of the biggest and most tragic deaths of the series, robbing it of much of its power. His star Jennifer Lawrence makes up for this in one of the very last scenes when her anger finally boils to the surface, but it is a shame the moment itself failed to pack a bigger punch.
In between its sterile, bland opening in District 13 and the destroyed remnants of other districts, and the ending that just gets darker and darker by the minute, Mockingjay 2 does find some time for some typical blockbuster action. President Snow has set traps all over the Capitol, making it basically another arena for those complaining that this is another Hunger Games film with no actual Hunger Games in it! The procession of deaths that fill this second half are far too bloodless, and some of the traps seem ludicrously set-up to allow easy escape, but there is at least one standout scene when Katniss finally gets to kick serious ass as Snow's monstrous mutts are unleashed on the group.
Collins' final book felt extremely rushed so the decision to split Mockingjay into Parts 1 and 2 allows the story to progress slightly more naturally. It's still far too easy for Katniss to get through the Capitol but Francis Lawrence makes the most of the time spent in the dark tunnels below the city. Peeta's flip-flopping from enemy to ally and back again grows vaguely tiresome, though Josh Hutcherson does his best with the script that constantly gets him to explain how he is feeling, rather than fully showing it.
Most of the problems with Mockingjay Part 2 are there in the book it is adapted from. Collins seemed to care a little less about the logic of the story and more about the message behind it by this point. Too many characters are introduced and dispatched as it moves towards the climax. Admirably, it feels far too bleak to be a major blockbuster. The cost of war is never forgotten, even in a tacked on 'happy' ending final scene that could easily have been left on the cutting room floor.
Mockingjay Part 2 is a fittingly dark end to the Hunger Games franchise, not as exciting perhaps as Catching Fire, but more politically charged. It's not the kind of film that families will be queuing up to see again and again, but it is a rare blockbuster that might just inspire young people to participate in politics and maybe even fight for a better and fairer future for themselves.
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 2 / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: FRANCIS LAWRENCE / SCREENPLAY: DANNY STRONG, PETER CRAIG / STARRING: NATALIE DORMER, JENNIFER LAWRENCE, ELIZABETH BANKS, JULIANNE MOORE / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 19TH
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10