Since the very first movie, the Hunger Games franchise has shown a sense of maturity about its content that is not present with its contemporary peers in the young-adult genre. While the Divergent and Maze Runner franchises certainly does tackle equally heavy and mature themes, neither do it with much grace; they present the action and violence as pure entertainment for entertainment’s sake. It’s ironic that The Hunger Games is on the opposite end of the spectrum, seeing as its main narrative is how the lower classes (districts) rise up against a totalitarian dictatorship that pins children against one another in a gladiatorial fight to the death for their own entertainment.
In Mockingjay – Part 2 Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is finally ready to take the fight to the Capitol and President Snow (Donald Sutherland). As per the current trend, the final book in the franchise has been split into two movies, but unlike the current trend, here it actually works. The final book is no denser than the first or second, but it is much bigger in scope; a grandiose sociopolitical war drama, as opposed to a teen-action gladiatorial fight. This allows for Part 1 to be the set-up; the propaganda-war where each side try to attract support and followers to their cause, and an extra 90 minutes to add fuel to our heroines motivations; and Part 2 to be the actual confrontation. One could argue it would’ve been possible to compress it into a single movie, but by doing it in two parts, it lets them both breath and feel much more organic (and of course, they earn more money from ticket/DVD sales).
The war is on, and the action-heavy scenes are tension-filled and well-executed (a black-goo scene in particular), but the movie really shines in its quieter moments. The moments of reflection and contemplation, where Katniss is forced to face the raw brutality of war and the repercussions of her decisions in the arena. Jennifer Lawrence sells these scenes really well, and while I still think the source material is restraining for an actress of her caliber, there’s no doubt she’s fully at home as Katniss this time around. In the wake of loss, war and the burden she carries, she is emotionally drained. It’s a thin line between this and apathy – the complete absence of feelings and emotions – but Lawrence’s unbridled and naturalistic performance keeps her on the right side of this line at all times.
To me, Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark) has always been the weakest link in the franchise, but no more. It’s not entirely his fault though, (as the character isn’t much more inspired in the books) but this time around he gets a lot of support from the screenplay. The cringe-worthy comments about love and loneliness isn’t gone or erased, but they’re less frequent and more organic to the story and character interactions – and it’s difficult to argue against the idea that Hutcherson has grown tremendously as an actor throughout these movies. The rest of the cast does as they’ve done before – while the new faces do well with what they’ve got – but there’s a few faces worth a mention. Jena Malone – whose absence was painfully evident in Part 1 does amazingly with what little screen time she gets, and continues to underline why she needs more roles. Donald Sutherland is the slimy snake we’ve come to know, while Julianne More’s President Coin is completely sidelined. Finally I have to pay my respects to Philip Seymour Hoffman, and thank him. He passed away in 2014, and this will bookend his career – a career I am unable to put into words – and while he’s not a main character, he does as he always did; played it to perfection. He truly is one of the all-time-greats, and it’s hard to say goodbye once again. We love you PSH.