Back in 2012, Jennifer Lawrence took the world by storm as Katniss Everdeen in the surprise smash-hit young-adult film The Hunger Games. 3 years later and the now globally renowned franchise is coming to an end, with the epic finale The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. And here's my review of the film.

Following genre tradition, Suzanne Collins' final novel in The Hunger Games trilogy was split into two films for its Hollywood counterpart, with Mockingjay Part 1 having released this time last year. However, not only does Mockingjay Part 2 close off the Mockingjay duo but it closes off the entire franchise. After 4 films and $2 billion at the box office, what started as an innocent franchise has now become a global phenomenon and this year marks it's grand conclusion - and I mean grand in every sense of the word, from scope to spectacle to everything in-between. The expectations from this film were extremely high and, having created such an iconic property, director Francis Lawrence had his work cut out for him but he delivered as the film most certainly lived up to the hype, that's for sure. This is a non-stop thrill ride that captures the magic of this dystopian world whilst delivering a big, grandiose and impactful finale to what has been a truly remarkable series in the process. In some ways, classifying it as a "young adult" film seems like an insult - putting it in the same league as the Twilight and Divergent films feels like a big dishonour and disservice to what The Hunger Games has become.

This is a franchise that is aware of what it is and that knows what it's doing, made evident through how Mockingjay Part 2 begins. Jumping straight into the action, the film picks up momentarily after the curtain drew on its predecessor. There's no recap of the story required; no re-introduction to our characters needed; no setup of any kind necessary and the game is afoot from the off-set. It's a testament to Lawrence and the filmmakers for having realised such an incredible world on the big screen to the extent that we can so quickly get immersed into it without any hinderance, even a year after we last left off. From there, what follows is 2 hours of entertainment at its finest. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), alongside Gale (Liam Hemsworth), a sturdy Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and the rest of her team finally prepare to take the battle to the Capitol and to President Snow (Donald Sutherland)''s doorstep. However, President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee ( the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) are a little more weary to let her out in the action and try to continue with their propos. What they don't realise, however, is now that the Mockingjay has spread her wings, you've got to let her fly.

The problem that often arises with films subtitled "Part 1" is that they're labelled as 'tedious, boring films' that are merely 'cash-grabs' and 'setups for the real thing'. Last year's Mockingjay Part 1 was no different, despite being a more stirring and thought-provoking film and a better first half than most. And if you were one of the people complaining about the lack of action in that film then not too worry because, rest assured, that's not the case with Part 2. The titular games themselves don't quite make an appearance - a line from Sam Claflin's Finnick O'Dair welcoming Katniss to "the 76th annual Hunger Games" feels so fitting and nostalgic - but the action, which is quite in abundance here, feels very reminiscent, returning to what we saw in the first two films, with the Capitol being the franchise's best arena yet. The war that we've been building up to for 3 films now finally ensues and it was worth the wait. The action sequences in Mockingjay Part 2 are stunning; the visuals so gorgeous and real and so beautifully shot and breathtakingly thrilling to watch. The cinematography itself was masterful and this is one nice looking film, from the murky, grey skies to the cold, bitter landscapes. A tense scene taking place in a sewer involving some weird, mutated, alien-like creatures is a particularly highlight.

That's another thing this film succeeds exceptionally in, creating tension. Right from the word go, Mockingjay Part 2 is a thrilling watch that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Lawrence's direction is masterful and he so beautifully translates Suzanne Collins' words to the big screen. Like her novel itself, the first half was a slower burn but, as the war commenced, it became a gripping novel that you could not put down. The replication here is that this is a suspenseful and intense 2 hours in which you are on the edge of your seat, glued to the screen and so involved in every little second and every little detail of this picture. Lawrence's adaption is suspenseful and packed with tension. It's also worth noting that this is a dark, mature film - maybe even too much so for some of its audience. This is a franchise based on adolescents killing one another for the pleasure of the greater community, it's already dark. Yet, it only adds to that in the final instalment with things threatening to boil over into horror territory at points. The themes and topics of discussion are mature and it packs quite the emotional punch too, again showing just how it doesn't fit the downgrading of being classed a "young-adult" film.
Everything is bigger here than before: the cast; the action sequences; the budget; the sheer scale of everything going down and even the stakes feel real and monumental. The groundwork for Mockingjay Part 2 has all been laid out already now and it just takes advantage of everything at its disposal. Speaking of the cast, everyone comes back and gives it their all for this one final outing. The supporting cast all shine in their roles, as always. Natalie Dormer and Julianne Moore have so quickly adopted their characters and grown into this world, as if they've been a part of it since the very beginning. Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks were also brilliant and just bring so much more to Haymitch and Effie than we've seen previously. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman is great too in his final ever performance, a nice tribute and send-off for the tremendous actor indeed. It's hard to fault anyone really. If there's any complaint, it's probably that Claflin's charismatic Finnick and Jena Malone's Johanna feel criminally underused - especially the latter who was mostly absent for Part 1 too.

Skipping on to the more major cast, Donald Sutherland is utterly remarkable as Snow. He's just so intimidating and brings a ruthless, evil presence to our antagonist yet, for the first time ever, he's actually vulnerable and human and it adds a lot to the character. Hemsworth and Hutcherson also stun and have adopted these characters so brilliantly. Willow Shields is a real highlight too, in her biggest role yet as Prim. You can feel her emotion and love for her sister. Of course, her sister is the star and Jennifer Lawrence kills it yet again. What can I say about the actress that hasn't already been said? She really gets into the skin of the character, bringing such nuance and heart to the role that launched her career and really absorbs the role. Despite her mega stardom, it's hard to actually see Lawrence and not just Katniss when watching this. She disappears and makes you believe that Ms Everdeen is an actual person. You can't help but root and empathise for her. Unlike most cinematic heroines, Katniss is strong and independent and powerful and relatable yet she's flawed and not idealistic either. Her conviction is inspiring and it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role aside from Lawrence.

There's something bittersweet about departing from these films and these characters that we've been with for the past few years now and that we're so invested in. I can't gurantee that tears won't be shed upon the credits rolling, for the die-hard fans at least. Every actor brings so much to this film and knowing that this is the last time we'll see them in their roles - Banks with her colourful energy (quite literally) as Effie; Harrelson with his wit and wisdom as Haymitch - is somewhat upsetting. There's such veritable and believable chemistry between this family too and not seeing this ensemble together again will be a shame. However, finally seing the conclusion to a story something in the making since 2012 is a joy. It actually finally ends. There's no cliffhangers, no ambiguity and the whole story and the whole world is finally just wrapped up and tied with a bow and there's something ecstatically satisfying about that. If there's one problem with the film though, it's that it stumbles in its final moments due to indecision. There are several moments towards the end in which it's obvious that Lawrence had a bit of difficulty on deciding when to close the curtain. Although, when the moment does arrive, it feels satisfying and it works.

Over the years, The Hunger Games has gone from being just another fruitful young-adult franchise to a global tour de force. From the original to Catching Fire to Mockingjay Part 1 and, now, Mockingjay Part 2, the curtain has been closed on what is quite literally an epic saga; the end of an era. From standing out as an individual and being independent to politics and war, this is a juggernaut franchise that has juggled some mature themes made - unfortunately - all the more important by the growing horror of the world's harrowing situation today. It is a series that has taken the world by storm and concludes with its biggest, darkest, most action-packed, most outrageously entertaining and intense outing yet. Mockingjay Part 2 is a fine and satisfying conclusion to the stunning The Hunger Games franchise that will leave you shaken and stirred and emotionally wrecked and touched and damn entertained.

VERDICT:
What started as an innocent YA franchise has now become an unstoppable phenomenon and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is a cinematic triumph; a tour de force of emotions, beauty, action and elegance. This is a fine and fitting send-off for what is the best YA franchise out there.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 opens on November 19th, 2015.

 

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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