Jennifer Lawrence stars in a strong, but not quite bombastic, farewell for the high-octane action series
What do you want from the final chapter of The Hunger Games? Do you want a faithful recreation of the book, which is largely a major bummer and widely considered the least enjoyable of the trilogy? Or do you want something that is less respectful of its source but offers the triumphant end deserved by perhaps the smartest, most ambitious film franchise of modern times? Director Francis Lawrence has gone for the former, which was probably the only choice he could reasonably make. Mockingjay Part 2 is an excellent adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ 2010 novel, but it does not overcome many of the book’s flaws.
If you don’t remember what happened last time, which would be understandable because after all the colour and dash of the first two, Mockingjay Part 1 was a grey dawdle. Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) has been rescued from the dastardly Capitol but torture has put his brain all on the wonk. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is more furious than ever with Snow (Donald Sutherland), the Capitol’s head, and determines to up the campaign to overthrow him and free the downtrodden of Panem. This is the final push and it ain’t gonna be a clean fight.
When the book gives him something juicy to work with Lawrence cherishes it. His vision of a mutant attack in the sewers is a harrowing self-contained horror film; while for the story’s climactic event he creates something that looks a slightly camp Nazi rally. And the script makes strongly, but subtly, clear the story’s sophisticated themes, about the fallibility of heroes, the manipulation of media and the impossibility of being wholly good when you’re fighting a war. This franchise has never dumbed down its complex messages and that’s to be applauded.
And yet. The story, as written in the book, doesn’t build to a big finish but digs itself into a mass grave. The final dour half hour is mostly a test of how many different ways Jennifer Lawrence can do sad-face (a lot, all of them commendable). A strong farewell, then, and given the material it had to work with the best it could have been, yet still somehow less than we might have hoped.