It’s been all fun and Hunger Games up to this point, but now things are getting serious. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her District 12 pals have been oppressed by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) for long enough, and the second part of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay is here to end it all. In a fun, well-made film, the conclusion to the celebrated dystopia teenage drama feels constrained by the disappointing decisions made by Suzanne Collins in her book. Despite the, frankly, terrible ending, this is still an entertaining romp through the mean streets of the Capitol.
Things start immediately from where we left off in Part 1: we’re buried in the cheerless depths of District 13’s bunkers with the newly-extracted, and more than a little unstable Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). But, the Capitol and its cronies aren’t exactly going to defeat themselves, so it’s up to Katniss and her squad to take control of President Snow’s mansion. They’re also continuing the job of the previous film by documenting their experience’s via a video camera to continue to stoke the fires of revolution across Panem. However, this job is made a whole lot harder by Snow’s Games Makers (the evil minds behind the Hunger Games arenas from the first two films) and their ‘pods’: anything from twisted ‘muttations’ to environmental hazards like remote-operated machine guns and flamethrowers are designed to do anything to stop our revolutionary brigade.
And, these pods really are everywhere, giving you the feeling that nobody is safe in this fight. Whilst book readers will already know the main plot twists, non-book readers should be ready for a couple of big shocks. Punchy action sequences abound in the film alongside tense, quieter moments in which you never quite shake the feeling that the forces of the Capitol are lurking in the background and ready to pounce at any time.
Much of the film pleasingly experiments with genre, the horror sections in the underground tunnels proving the highlight. With more than a taste of I Am Legend and other such horror flicks, the tension conveyed in these parts of the film mixes up the action nicely. Although, despite this being a children’s/teenager’s film already indulging in dark themes, certain moments do push the boundaries of the 12A rating. We might not explicitly see some of the more distressing moments to more than this certificate, but this is a very adult film in a lot of ways.
However, the film isn’t completely dominated by action and violence, the dreadfully awkward love-triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gael Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) still adds nothing to the story beyond a few eye rolls from the audience. In the midst of an increasingly tough and important fight, these scenes feel out of place. That said, this is an example of how the shortcomings of Collins’ book weigh down what could’ve been a very good film and plot.
Yet, it feels a shame to condemn the film for Collins’ ending; to make something more respectable would completely change the story
But, the most important example of this is the ending, and by god is it bad. Hopefully, book readers will have made their peace with the ending of the book that is confused due to its attempts to do a number of different things all at once (I’m obviously banishing spoilers to beyond the bounds of District 13 here). On the other hand, if you haven’t read the book, prepare to be a little on the frustrated side. Yet, it feels a shame to condemn the film for Collins’ ending; to make something more respectable would completely change the story, so the directors here are clearly playing things safe.
The second part of Mockingjay and the final instalment in The Hunger Games film series is still worth a watch, but is ultimately let down by average source material. It’s paced well, remains gripping throughout and keeps things surprisingly dark in terms of its themes, but I still had more fun on my way home speculating on what would’ve made a far better ending. It didn’t take me long. My promising career in storytelling aside, go into your screening of the final Panem outing prepared for disappointment, and it might turn out to actually be quite good.