Release Date: 19 November 2015
Running Time: 137 min
Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore
Katniss Everdeen is back to close out The Hunger Games trilogy with this, the fourth film in the series. Obviously inspired by Harry Potter and the Two Part Finale, Mockingjay has been split into two movies. Presumably this is in order to honour every single last detail of the story and absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the studio can get away with making punters pay twice to watch the series conclusion. At least when Douglas Adams claimed that The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was a trilogy of five books he was making a joke.
There’s not a lot of jokes in Mockingjay Part 2 though. Anyone who’s missed the previous three instalments has missed out on a saga of totalitarianism, propaganda, control and child on child murder. Mockingjay Part 2 picks up straight from the end of the previous film (or halfway through the third book) with our heroine Katniss’ ally Peeta suffering from a form of brainwashing at the hands of sinister President Snow. Used as a propaganda tool to incite rebellion, Katniss feels manipulated by rebel leader Alma Coin whose icy demeanour and severe tactics are more than a little reminiscent of the incumbent president of Panem. With an army of rebels preparing for an assault on The Capitol amassing in the underground District 13, Katniss sees her chance to finally take down Snow and sneaks aboard a transport to the frontlines.
Tonally, Mockingjay Part 2 is closest to its immediate predecessor in the franchise, the gloomy, Mockingjay Part 1, a movie that confused being serious with being dour. The first two films in the series were hardly a laugh riot, but they did have the occasional moment of humour, something conspicuous by its absence here. Both parts of Mockingjay share the same drab colour palette of whites, blacks and greys as well as a borderline fetishistic use of rubble as dressing for (the admittedly impressive) sets. It’s a shame because after the candy coloured horror of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire this franchise has become visually indistinct from the numerous other dystopian, young adult series out there.
While at times Mockingjay Part 1 felt like the cinematic equivalent of treading water, Part 2 at least has a sense of forward momentum to it. It’s also gotta whole lotta action, which is sometimes a bit muddled and confusing (a problem throughout the series) and sometimes effectively handled. The stakes are certainly higher than ever, but the focus is tighter and much of the film is spent with Katniss and her small squad of soldiers as they pick their way through a booby trapped city.
Perhaps what’s most admirable about The Hunger Games franchise though is that it doesn’t shy away from tackling difficult subject matter that most blockbusters would run a mile from. A story that began with children forced to kill each other as entertainment for the rich and has gone on to examine the effects of trauma, grief and propaganda, it’s astonishingly bleak and Mockingjay Part 2 is a suitably grim way to round off the story.