A disappointing finale to the futuristic Hunger Games trilogy.
In a series which converges from vast indigenous landscapes to futuristic gladiator arenas in its first two chapters, the scale of its third instalment becomes even more narrowed as Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) leads a group of rebels, including the familiar faces of Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick (Sam Claflin) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), across the ruined Capitol in a covert assassination attempt on President Snow’s life.
The last in the series of Suzanne Collin’s blockbuster book trilogy gets off to a slow start in its on screen adaptation with a lot of time given to re-establishing Katniss as the emotively resigned character she has appeared to be from the start. Estranged from Peeta who identified Katniss as the soul cause of all the death and destruction he has suffered.
Unfortunately the audience is given little evidence to the contrary, with Katniss being a rather brash and unsympathetic character without Peeta’s unconditional love to soften her rough edges. While the filmmakers attempt to reveal Katniss’s heroism in her great public speeches and rallying of the opposed districts, what they fail to address is the original source of her moral compass – her sister Prim.
Seamlessly woven into the story are a number of character lines involving sibling love and loss in the death of the Leeg sisters (Misty Ormiston and Kim Ormiston) for example, and the grief of Pollux (Elden Henson) at the loss of his brother Castor (Wes Chatham), and yet there is a significant failing, but for one fleeting dance sequence, to attribute the same time establishing the bond between Katniss and Prim, the relationship which was after-all the instigating factor for the entire series.
On a more positive note once the initial tedium of the first hour of set up had passed, the film sunk readily back into its true element with the sadistic Capital pods providing for a vast array of visual effects and adrenaline pumped action scenes. In a particularly dramatic moment Katniss and her squad find themselves sealed into a round of tall housing blocks from which a wave of black oil erupts, licking the sides of the building and threatening to consume its victims.
In a film however, which relies so much on character drive and desire, all the integral action of Mockingjay called for an equally fraught emotional struggle which failed to come through. I am referring of course to the supposedly painful relationship between Gale and Katniss which was in my humble opinion hopelessly unbelievable. Not for a second does the audience feel Gale’s apparent devotion to Katniss, his approach to her coming across more resentful than infatuated and her indebted commitment to him appearing as nothing short of inconvenient. Peeta, naturally is this films redeeming feature in terms of driving desire lines, his internal conflict between truth and reality allowing the viewer brief glimpses of Katniss’s human side.
Yet I still consider the adaptation’s biggest failing to be in the limited attention given to certain main characters’ deaths, which are not only visually confusing but quite frankly, if you blink you could easily miss them entirely. As the story’s symbol of morality, one particular demise is very much the death to end all deaths, but was in this case a scene which suffered a prolonged build up and was over far too quickly.
In short, the conclusion of the Hunger Games series never quite built up the same momentum as its previous episodes. Framed by a lengthy set up and a never-ending act committed to providing an unnecessarily happy ending with not much happening in between, this film bitterly fails in its attempts to replicate Suzanne Collin’s harrowing finale.
I arrived at the cinema prepared to leave traumatised. As it was my pulse barely rose. My advice? Read the book.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015), directed by Francis Lawrence, is distributed in the UK by Lionsgate. Certificate 12A.