D: Francis Lawrence. DP: Jo Willems. W: Peter Craig & Danny Strong. Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Claflin, Natalie Dormer, Elizabeth Banks, Willow Shields, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Mahershala Ali, Michelle Forbes. (NOTE: Based on Suzanne Collins’ novel)
Another YA fiction adaptation comes to a close begging the question, what will be the next series? The Divergent series starring Shailene Woodley has not been able to compete at the box office with Hunger Games or Harry Potter or Twilight so it’s safe to say we are still looking for what’s next. However, regardless The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 wraps up this series nicely and provides the action packed punch the final installment needed.
Part 2 picks up from the previous film that ended with the rescuing of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from the capitol where he had been conditioned to kill Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence). Emotionally this sets up Katniss’ additional drive to infiltrate the capitol and kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Although asked to wait by her superiors and remain just the symbol of the rebellion, Katniss does what she does best and sneaks out anyway. Eventually Katniss will join forces with a special skilled group and enter into the capitol which is covered in pods that make it essentially another hunger games. This stretch of the film is the best as it’s action roots are what make the series its own. Katniss must act and react to what lies ahead of her, with fabulous bow and arrow use to boot.
This final film was shot in tandem with the previous one so the creative team stayed the same between the two. Director Francis Lawrence and cinematographer Jo Willems keep up the good work from Part 1, but excel at the action sequences. The emotionality of the love triangle cannot be sustained by the series, but this is not from lack of trying by Lawrence. Her teenager is all woman now, which arguably she always was, but still does not connect convincingly with Hutcherson. Their chemistry does not build impact and at this point in the story no one should have to be convinced of their connection.
Thankfully they are surrounded by new faces and action to help move the film along as death continues to be part of these games. The ending of the film provides twists and turns but if you have read the book these lack some resonance. That could also be because Katniss’ denial of any political position makes all her decisions emotional rather than tactical. Great when read by a YA audience, but maybe not the best ending for a cinema offering. Julianne Moore still suffers through a severe wig as President Coin and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final scenes shimmer with their own kind of sadness.
The Hunger Games world keeps expanding throughout the series, but there is still not a clear sense of space defined visually. The size of Pan Am is hard to conceive and with the repetition of game-like narratives the films themselves are cyclical and non distinctive, except for the previous one. Seeing them as a set now their explorations of trauma and death as sport is a fascinating exploration of modern warfare. Despite its YA context Hunger Games does ask its teens to think and think beyond themselves. A great feat for any teenage set content. We shall see who steps up to the plate next.