Seven years after the original publication of 'The Hunger Games', the franchise reaches a bombastic and satisfying, if sometimes a little shaky, conclusion in the form of 'Mockingjay: Part 2'. Themes of political corruption and moral ambiguity are fully fleshed out by director Francis Lawrence and linger long in the mind long after the final credits roll, though it encounters the all too familiar problems of its source material.
With no flashback or referral back to the previous film, 'Mockingjay' opens with a shot of Katniss (the formidable Jennifer Lawrence) recovering in a hospital wing after being attacked by a hypnotised Peeta (a surprising performance from Josh Hutcherson). The rest of the 137 minute film then follows Katniss and her comrades as she sets out to destroy the Capitol and assassinate President Snow once and for all, whilst having to deal with pressurizing sides such as the suspicious President Coin (Julianne Moore in her finest role this year) enforcing the Mockingjay symbol upon her as a burden for war. The problem however, is the frustrating pace Lawrence takes to get to the Capitol, which is understandable when you split a fairly average-sized book into two films. The action sequences make up for this however, the striking cinematography captures the very essence of a materialistic, artificial world shattered by the effects of war. Long shots emphasize the sheer scale of the city, creating intense feelings of isolation and claustrophobia. Towers topple, streets stretch out for miles and the uneasy silences fantastically recreates the very feeling of the first film when Katniss was thrown into the arena. Where the film exceeds, is the ability to fully flesh out the themes the book only briefly touched upon, such as propaganda, media culture, political corruption and moral ambiguity. Chilling sequences emphasize the very idea of war being a spectacle for the camera, as the body count rises, especially in one harrowing moment where a mother is killed by a blast from an incoming bomb, with her toddler screaming over her body. Lawrence handles this all in an amicable mature manner, but mere days after the terrible attacks in Paris and Syria, this truly becomes a case of art imitating life; this could be potentially be the point Lawrence is trying to make.
As most of the film requires a lot of filler in order to fit the two and a half hour bill, there are lagging moments which could easily have been scrapped. It cuts the pace down and holds it back, such as the repeated sequence of Katniss awaking in hospital after some form of injury. It's been done in the franchise so many times, the audience does not need to see it again. Though Lawrence always fights back from these moments with unexpected moments of bombastic violence or even unexpected horror, the sequence in the sewer with the attack of the mutts brilliantly mirrors the bloody and gruesome terror seen in AMC's 'The Walking Dead' and cranks up the suspense high. Interwoven with these moments is the truly horrifying realisation Katniss has to make on distinguishing good from bad. The film makes it clear no such thing is concrete or absolute, it is far more complex than that and poses a lot of interesting questions by the final act.
Without spoiling anything, certain deaths and shocking moments are notably glossed over and never explained fully. This was an issue present in the books which I was hoping Lawrence would address and reformulate, but instead he chooses to stick close to the source material. I respect this decision but I feel like such a loss deserved a lot more screen time, even to mourn and grief, as the film foreshadows the loss a substantial amount (especially in circling shots?!). Having said that, I still found the film to be enjoyable and reach a satisfying ending. Familiar characters make their return but are limited in screen time, such as Stanley Tucci's Caesar Flickerman reduced to a single news broadcast and Elizabeth Banks' Effie only in the final half hour. The true star of the film truly is Julianne Moore's President Alma Coin, a pure pleasure to watch as she fluctuates between alliance and enemy in attempting to control Katniss and control The Capitol, she unsettles yet she captivates.
No doubt fans will be pleased with Lawrence's faithful adaptation of Suzanne Collins' final book in the series, though it could have easily been shortened down to one feature length film as opposed to two with plenty of filler sequences in the middle. Still, the film captivates and handles its difficult themes wonderfully, that will certainly stick with me for a very long time. So long Katniss, it's been one hell of a ride.