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Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2


Director: Francis Lawrence.

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore.

"How did they get this pile of rocks to burn? Is this a magic fire?"

SAYING goodbye is a difficult thing to do.

Peter Jackson got it right first time with Return Of The King, but wrong second time with The Battle Of The Five Armies. Harry Potter’s last film was spot on, but Nolan's final Batman was way off.

The fourth and final movie of The Hunger Games series is somewhere in the middle. It can’t match the thrills of the second film, nor the emotional punch of the third, despite the stakes being higher, yet does just enough to satisfy fans of the franchise based on Suzanne Collins’ young adult dystopian novels.

Taking off where Mockingjay – Part 1 left off (don’t bother seeing this if you haven’t seen the previous films), it finds Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) struggling with her position as figurehead of the Panem uprising.

She wants to get out there and kill the tyrant Snow (Sutherland), but is seen as too valuable by the leaders of the uprising, personified by Coin (Moore).

Meanwhile her friend Peeta (Hutcherson) is struggling to recover from brainwashing at the hands of Snow, but is part of the rebel forces edging closer to Snow’s stronghold.

But Snow has one last trick up his sleeve for the rebels – a booby-trapped capital city, which effectively creates one last Hunger Games. The prize this time is control of the whole country.

Mockingjay 2 can’t harness the same energy as its predecessors despite even more being on the line this time. There are still some surprises left, including a strangely handled last act twist, but the momentum of the previous film is lost.

With the uprising in its final throes, the movie unfortunately takes its sweet time getting to where it’s going. The first act drags over old ground, while the action sequences of the second act are predominantly of the “running away” variety and become repetitive, except for a cool fight with weird creatures in a sewer.

It’s the big reveal and payoff at the end, which should be so satisfying, that feels so frustratingly fumbled. Given the way the plot of the final book is split into two films, the screenwriters and director Francis Lawrence had a lot of time to deal with the key elements but rush many of them. You can’t help but wonder if a punchier single film version wouldn’t have worked better or whether the last two films must be watched in one sitting to fully hit home.

There is still a lot to like about Mockingjay 2 aka Hunger Games 4. It’s key themes about the power of propaganda and the morality within war are as vital as ever and tested in interesting fashion, particularly the latter, and Katniss Everdeen remains a compelling character, wonderfully realised by Lawrence.

The love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale (Hemsworth) is interesting and refreshingly strange, while the supporting cast is great. In fact, they’re so great but so plentiful you end up shortchanged by their collective lack of screen time – Harrelson, Moore, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Banks, Jena Malone, and Jeffrey Wright all play intriguing roles, but we don’t see enough of them.

At close to two-and-a-half hours, Mockingjay 2 feels long when it shouldn't, especially given the small amount of actual plotting that takes place. The studio, in its efforts to maximise profits, has unnecessarily split one book and created one great film and one not-so-great finale.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 does all it needs to in order to succeed, but is a let down compared to its predecessors.

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