A whole year after the release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1), the final instalment in a series of adaptations based on Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of novels is finally here. With Part 1 leaving the dystopian nation of Panem on the verge of revolution, a hijacked Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) attempting to come to grips with reality, and our reluctant heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) preparing for battle, Part 2 picks up in District 13 as the team plan their way into the Capitol.
Directed once again by Francis Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 2) picks up with Katniss as she must bring together an army when Panem moves into a full-scale war. Teamed with those closest to her – Peeta, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Finnick (Sam Claflin) – Katniss sets out on her own mission, ignoring orders set to her by President Coin (Julianne Moore), as she leads her unit into mortal traps and humanity-breaking moral choices that will challenge her more than any arena she faced in The Hunger Games, in her efforts to end the manipulative reign of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) for good.
The following post is a review of the film only. You can read my review of the book on its own here or my comparison of the film to the book here.
The Hunger Games franchise is one of the best around at the minute, and that’s not only in its young adult genre. But with the third of Collin’s novels adapted into two parts, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1) did receive some fair criticism despite how well the first two films were received. The Mockingjay novel wasn’t particularly great, and there wasn’t enough story to fill out two feature films. With Part 1 having to end at some point mid-way through the novel, there was no suitable place for it to end to feel like an individual film and, for that reason, the film felt unfinished without a suitable climax. Whilst it built up the tension and prepared us for what’s to come, Part 1 was only a setup, although it did leave us all anticipating the final chapter with a lot of questions in need of answering.
As two single parts, neither Part 1 or 2 of Mockingjay work fully on their own, but together they are fantastic. Before seeing The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 2) in the cinema I watched Part 1 at home, so I was able to experience Mockingjay in full effect. And this is how it should be seen. Arguably I would have preferred to see a single Mockingjay film that ran at 3+ hours, but the additional run time given by splitting the story into two is all put to good use, making this a dystopian story on form with the likes of George Orwell‘s 1984. And I would go as far to say that it is just as relevant.
Suzanne Collins‘s trilogy of novels are not written with the same quality, but the dystopian world that she has created is in-depth and brilliantly crafted, and with Francis Lawrence working on all of the adaptations but the first, which Gary Ross setting the franchise up excellently, together they have brought to the big screen a dystopian society that is powerful, threatening, and appropriate for its time.
With Catching Fire leaving us on the cliff-hanger that District 12 had been destroyed, that left only one way for Mockingjay to continue – the only way a dystopian story should conclude – with a rebellion against the tyrannical Capitol. The best characteristics of a dystopia are always around the themes of standing up for yourself, fighting against wrong, and making a difference, and that’s exactly what we’ve been waiting for Katniss to do.
By the end of Mockingjay (Part 1), Katniss had built up her strength and was transformed into the iconic Mockingjay, a symbol of hope and courage in the revolution, created to unify the districts of Panem and put the revolution well and truly in motion. All that was left for Part 2 to do was to end the Capitol’s and President Snow’s reign for good, and with a whole 137 minutes ready to be dedicated to this battle, Mockingjay (Part 2) did not disappoint.
One of the reasons that I didn’t enjoy the Mockingjay novel was because of how rushed the revolution itself felt. After the lengthy scenes of District 13’s preparations that were seen in Part 1 and the final takeover of District 2 that opens Part 2, much of the novel focused on the build-up to the Capitol takeover, which made the final scenes seem almost insignificant in comparison.
But Mockingjay (Part 2) makes sure that this is a revolution that we won’t quickly forget. It’s very rare that film adaptations do it better, but Lawrence has made that a certainty with this film. The scenes with the mutts, especially, is done incredibly well, with tension dusted in all the right places to keep the audience constantly on edge about what’s going to happen.
These scenes of the Capitol’s traps were excellent, and it’s just as well that they were the centre of the film as they were this instalments version of the Games themselves, allowing the filmmakers to add entertainment (even if we were on the wrong side of it) and use some brilliant special effects to get our hearts racing.
Of course, with such a huge, guns-blazing battle to end it all, there are more than a few deaths in this part of the story. Neither the books nor the films have been shy of killing off its characters so far, unavoidably so with its bleak premise, and some of best scenes in the story have revolved around such themes, with characters such as Rue, especially, moving audiences to tears.
But, in the book, the deaths are somewhat rushed over, with most of them happening in a hurried moment, leaving characters to fall insignificantly against the backdrop of everything else. However, they are much better handled in the film. The deaths are nearly all altered from the book but, whilst the film changes the way in which these characters die to make the scenes less violent, the film also gives these characters a much better send-off.
Whilst it can always be argued that more violence is needed in a film like this, I think each of The Hunger Games instalments have handled the bleak premise perfectly. A film like this doesn’t need to have blood splattering everywhere but, at the same time, it would have been wrong to sugarcoat the mass amounts of fighting and death. The deaths are changed, as explained above, and some of the pod traps are missed out, too, but there’s enough included to do the book justice. The way these films balances its 12A rating with the book’s violent premise is done perfectly, in my opinion, and the way Snow’s reign comes to an end and how Coin handles her side of the revolution adds an extra stamp of darkness.
Again, when reading the book, I felt that the ending was a bit of a cop-out, but Lawrence manages to turn it into something much bigger and I honestly felt quite beaten down by all those involved in the Capitol war. There are happy endings in small doses, but Collins thought this ending out so well that she managed to make things work out by not pretending that the rest of The Hunger Games instalments weren’t schemes of actual torture created by a tyrannous state, and that this revolution wasn’t just a walk in the park. It’s a conclusion that suits all audiences, with Lawrence bringing the franchise to a commendable end.
And finally, let’s not end without mentioning how fantastic the whole cast has been throughout this entire franchise. Jennifer Lawrence, although not single-handedly, has led this franchise to its huge success, but the whole cast have really given their all to this series of films, with Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Liam Hemsworth, and Josh Hutcherson, especially, putting all of their efforts into making sure that this final instalment was everything that it could be.
It’s always sad to say goodbye to a franchise, especially one this good, but The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 2) ends without any regrets. Not only is this a brilliant film to end an unforgettable franchise, but the franchise has proved to be the best young adult dystopia around.