Dir: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson
The fact that The Hunger Games has managed to become a franchise heavyweight that can stand proud aside YA juggernaut Harry Potter is quite exceptional. Whilst audiences grew up with the boy wizard, with the series spanning ten years and eight films, The Hunger Games arrived on our screens a mere three years ago. Based on the first in Suzanne Collins’ popular dystopian triology, The Hunger Games (2012) is a far cry from what the franchise has ended up as with Mockingjay: Part 2.
The first film, directed by Gary Ross, wasn’t your conventional YA franchise movie, and whilst Mockingjay: Part 2 is certainly much more of a franchise product, that’s not to say that it is overtly bad. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has proved to be one of the most important franchise leads to come in a very long time. The rise of the character can be seen to run parallel to that of the actress who plays her, with Jennifer Lawrence now finding herself to be one of the biggest stars in the world, and a role model to many. The same can be said for Everdeen – the franchise, and this final installment in particular, has been hugely successful in avoiding the pitfalls of stereotypes – and the Mockingjay is a fully-fledged, three dimensional character who is both strong and vulnerable.
The positive portrayals don’t stop there, and Mockingjay: Part 2 is all about the girl power, from the excellent Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) to Johanna Mason (Jenna Malone), there are no end of kick-ass female characters throughout, and it is this that makes the franchise revolutionary in a sense. There is no want of veteran talent on display, with Donald Sutherland providing another terrific turn as President Snow, as does Julianne Moore as Alma Coin.
However, as tends to be the case with a major franchise, with so many memorable characters and plot threads coming into play the film can at times feel like a greatest hits, with characters appearing briefly to tie up a plot point. Obviously there are more tragic circumstances behind the lack of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and it is bittersweet to see him shine in his reworked but extremely plot-important role. The only real character we get to see develop is Katniss and perhaps Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), whilst Liam Hemsworth is generally sidelined as Gale – an Twilight-esque scene which sees Gale and Peeta discuss Katniss is one of the few missteps in the film.
It did not come a surprise when Lionsgate announced plans to split the final book in two, but Part 2 has managed to avoid the entire film being a cumulative battle (a la Harry Potter). The film picks up where the previous installment left off, with revolutionary war is in full swing across Panem. The series has always skirted around the very outside of its 12A rating, and this is no different – some of the more jumpy moments would not be out of place in a horror movie. The no-holds-bar approach has always been important, with the films providing commentary on the nature of war and violence. The message here is particularly poignant, and the traditional YA structure is again deviated from – in the world of Panem there is no such thing as straight up good or evil.
The ending is ultimately a crowd-pleasing one, but it also feels like the natural one considering the developments of the characters over the course of the narrative, so it’s hard to make any real complaints. As a big-budget franchise finale, it ticks all the boxes, as well as providing food for thought that is not always present in YA adaptions (looking at you Twilight). Not for those looking for the arthouse experience, but Mockingjay: Part 2 is a worthy end to a progressive franchise.