Movie Review: Hunger Games - Mockingjay Part 2

With much over-exasperated anticipation behind it, the fiery finale to the blockbuster Hunger Games film franchise is finally here. Fueled by its somewhat lifeless yet watchable Girl-on-Fire, with Jennifer Lawrence using whatever excitement she has left after three films to lead this film into another expected box-office success, Mockingjay Part 2 relies on its gracious fan-base and ultra-hyped anticipation to deliver a fitting end to this franchise of child-hunting and corrupt governments.

After regaining a mentally-unstable Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from the corrupt Capital, Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) continues her voyage towards the destruction of the vile President Snow and the liberation of Panem. Forced to trek through a war-torn Panem, up against everything from deadly obstacles to defining moral decisions, Katniss, along with Peeta, Gale (Liam Hemsworth), and her crew of propaganda filmmakers, must do everything she can to survive, in order to save the lives of millions from the clutches of a blood-thirsty dictator. Faced with her most challenging feat yet, the choices Katniss makes now will ultimately define what the world looks like in the near future.

Whether it follows the book or not, most people going into this film forgetting whatever the hell happened in Part 1, Mockingjay Part 2 tosses us right back into the action...or rather the slow-moving plot we we're expecting. Reliant on its established story, where we find a rouge teen fighting against a corrupt government that forces kids to kill each other for sport, the conclusion of this flamboyant franchise was definitely one to be excited about. Or so we thought. Breaking the final book, written by Suzanne Collins, into two parts -- quite similar to how Harry Potter and Twilight did -- the franchise undoubtedly took a massive risk, ultimately sacrificing the potential for one massive final film that could've been great, for one that, in the end, felt far too massive for its own good. With the first part of Mockingjay delivering a successful -- yet highly uneventful -- build-up to Part 2, the second addition leaves us with a part of what we wanted in Part 1, but not much else to enjoy.

Aside from its faults in terms of franchise set-up, one thing that fuels this series has to be its cast. While I'll delve into plot mishaps and other stumbles the franchise has had later on, the cast of the film is definitely worth mentioning. Led by the fearless Jennifer Lawrence, one example of a talented actress stuck in a limiting franchise, this story of Katniss Everdeen aka the Girl-on-Fire, has ultimately been one of the actress' most defining roles. Definitely not her best role, especially with her fame in Hollywood only growing larger, Lawrence works well with what she has in this film. Starting off as an emotionally conflicted teen who was forced to enter a deadly game of war and hunger back in 2012, throughout the series Katniss unfortunately became more and more dull and unexciting. While Lawrence still retained her natural will to fight, which was present in the last two films, I felt like this film didn't do as well as job with her character as it should have. However, while the film does drag on a bit, wrapping up Katniss' love-triangle between Gale and Peeta, as well as her war against President Snow, Lawrence's performance still retained just enough power to keep us rooting for her.

Other than Lawrence, the remaining cast delivers worthy finishing performances, just not as lasting as the girl-on-fire's. With the whole gang still here, from the slightly-less humorous Effie (Elizabeth Banks) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) to the somewhat underused President Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman), the final film in the franchise really only works to establish Katniss' final fight with Snow (Donald Sutherland), leaving the others there to just relay lines and move on. While there was some emotion present in some characters, especially the heart-broken and mentally-unstable Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), these characters were ultimately pushed aside to leave room for more moody Katniss. While that may not have been such a bad decision, as she is the central character, I felt that this film -- similar to the last one -- failed to develop its supporting cast, relying on our knowledge from the books to fuel our love for their characters. That being said, the franchise -- at least at the beginning -- did a wonderful job with its cast, stumbling near the end just a bit.

One of the things this film did better than the last one would have to be the thrills. With Part 1 bringing us out of the arena and into the long-haul towards the final fight, the thrills were undoubtedly reduced, leaving more room for politics and whatever else happened in that movie (yeah, I can remember Catching Fire more than I can Part 1). Now, as the war raged on, Part 2 brought us something that the first part was lacking: Excitement. While some of the thrills and tense moments may have felt a bit cliché or unsurprising, the film successful brought a fiery war to this fiery finale. In trapping the characters within a city-wide Hunger Games-esque tournament, the series returned to its roots of gripping action and arrow-shooting heroines. One of the highlights of the film, the tense scenes where our heroes -- or hero, I should say -- are faced with a deadly opposition and must take the most drastic measures to get out alive, those scenes are what got me through this mostly dreary finale.

Overall, while the plot may stumble a bit and the characters aren't as developed as they could've been, Mockingjay Part 2 delivers a much more sharp and cohesive tale than its predecessor. While it may not be able to compete with the first two -- Catching Fire being a favorite of mine from the franchise --, the film works on a level where it was still easily one of the best young-adult book adaptations in a while. With more tense thrills and far better direction than the Divergent franchise, Hunger Games was still able to draw in a massive crowd of fans and newbies alike. Mockingjay may have suffered from the inevitable two-parter split that all great franchises fall victim too (sadly even Marvel Studios and the third Avengers film), but ultimately gives fans an enjoyable close to this blockbuster franchise we've all been dying to see come to an end.

I gave this film a 7 out of 10 for its decent direction once again from director Francis Lawrence, its worthy thrills and action sequences that were missing from the last installment, and its likable cast that shined throughout the franchise, even if they were dull at times. In the end, this franchise may have been flawed, but it nevertheless succeeded in conquering every year with its gripping dystopian premise.

Stay tuned this week for my review of the charming romantic drama Brooklyn, as well as a breakdown of two of the biggest superhero trailers out now...Yeah, you know what I mean.             

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