From the beginning, The Hunger Games franchise has found a way to differentiate itself from all of the other, generic YA adaptations running around Hollywood today. While it follows a familiar formula, and shares components with the other properties, The Hunger Games has always been able to find an emotional weight and center that few others have. Starting out as a story of a girl who threw herself into a killing arena to save her sister, the franchise has followed Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) every step of the way since then, going from a rebellious girl in her district, to a national symbol of freedom.
Picking up where its first half left off, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 finds Katniss in an even darker emotional state than she’s ever been in before – after the “hijacking” of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) at the end of the last film has left her with an even smaller number of people she can trust. It’s apparent from the first frame of the movie that things are nearing their conclusion though, and Katniss not only seems well aware of the different results she might be facing, but ready and willing to face whichever one comes her way. As she joins a squad of both new and familiar characters from the previous installments, she and her allies march (and periodically sprint) through the wasteland that was once the Capitol, getting closer and closer to President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) mansion – in the hopes of ending their war once and for all.
What follows is an often unpredictable, tonally consistent ride of explosions and emotional beatings that will likely leave some fans of the franchise asking for a moment of reprieve. The franchise manages to keep its originality though, taking all of the political and emotional themes presented in the previous installments into all new territory here, and director Francis Lawrence continues to prove himself as the right person to tell this story. Coming off of the successful introduction by director Gary Ross too, Lawrence had a lot of pressure on his shoulders moving into the franchise’s second installment, Catching Fire. He managed to provide the franchise with a steady and dramatic tone that it desperately needed though, helping to elevate each of the films since, and Mockingjay Part 2 is no exception. He’s proven himself to be an interesting and confident voice in the entertainment industry today, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds himself attached to some very unique projects in the coming years.
The beating heart of the franchise has been, and will always be Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss though. Managing to merge both the blockbuster persona and dramatic actress into one, Lawrence has been able bring a grounded weight to each of the previous films, even through some of their more ridiculous story moments. She’s created a real emotional center to her character that few other actresses could, and she does her best work as Katniss in this film. Able to navigate herself from one extreme emotion to another with only a glance of the eye, she imbues the character with the kind of subtlety and weight she needs, making the ride from beginning to end a much easier one at times.
Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth act as capable supporting players in the film as well, as the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale nears its end. Other key players are featured sparingly throughout including Elizabeth Banks’ continually entertaining Effie Trinket, and Woody Harrelson’s grim, but fun Haymitch Abernathy. Julianne Moore brings her veteran talent and prowess to President Alma Coin, and for a character that could have resembled more of a cartoon than anything else by the time this franchise reached its conclusion, she manages to give the character an added complexity and depth that helps to energize the scenes between herself, Katniss, and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Plutarch Heavensbee.
It’s clear that Francis Lawrence and his team were looking to create a tone and pace that felt as close to a war film as they could, and for the most part, they succeed on every level. The film’s action is both thrilling and suffocating throughout, with one sewer sequence in particular using its confined environment to its full advantage, creating a claustrophobic and tense action set piece that will likely go down as one of the franchise’s shining moments. The filmmaker wisely uses Katniss as the camera’s anchor throughout the entire film, and the combination of Lawrence’s acting and the stunt choreography help the action to feel as real and chaotic as possible.
This is not a typical finale though, and the film manages to maintain its previously unpredictability and darkness throughout, as it approaches both death and politics in such interesting and complex ways, that some moments in the film may stick in your mind for days after you leave the theatre. Fans of the book may be surprised by how faithful the film remains to Suzanne Collins’ original novel as well, and it manages to not only incorporate the elements from the book that worked, but improve upon some of the moments that got too muddled or confusing on the page.
Going into the film though, I was nervous to see how the filmmakers were planning on wrapping up what has turned into a fairly large, and complicated story. It’s never been easy to finish a series of this caliber though, and finding a way to not only organically tie together all of its loose ends, but also find a satisfying emotional catharsis. So while some audience members out there will likely be disappointed and heartbroken by the direction the film takes at times, there’s no denying its effective nature. From start to finish, Mockingjay Part 2 is a satisfying conclusion both emotionally and cinematically to one of the most interesting franchises in Hollywood right now. As someone who walked into the theatre initially skeptical too, it ended up giving me everything I wanted.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is set to hit theatres on November 20th.
Make sure to keep checking back for more updates — right here on GeekNation.
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