The dystopia of The Hunger Games comes to a captivating conclusion in Mockingjay - Part 2.
Endings are never fun. Satisfaction is hard enough to achieve without leaving loose ends or creating plot holes or sacrificing pacing to hit all the important points or a slew of other obstacles. Throw in the fact that The Hunger Games film franchise is based on a well-liked young adult series, and Mockingjay faces a doubly difficult opponent to overcome: provide a rewarding conclusion to a popular movie without deviating from the books but also not confusing non-readers. Despite the stagnant filler fest that Part 1 is, Mockingjay - Part 2 fares much better and is even, dare I say it, satisfying.
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) recovers from her near death at the hands of the "hijacked" Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Despite her remaining sadness over Peeta's brainwashed condition, she joins the rebel forces in their quest to take the Capitol's weapons supply in District 2. As loyalists and civilians arrive from within the heavily fortified armory, Katniss attempts to persuade them to surrender. In the confusion, she is shot.
Thanks to her bulletproof outfit, Katniss deals with bruised ribs and a bruised lung. After a swift recovery, she seeks out President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). She is tired of people killing one another for President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and volunteers to kill him, but Coin tells her that she's done her job as the Mockingjay, the symbol of the revolution. Later, at Finnick (Sam Claflin) and Annie's (Stef Dawson) wedding, Katniss learns from Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) of a shipment of medical supplies that is heading to the front lines and so stows away to reach the Capitol to carry out her assassination herself.
Upon her arrival, she and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) join Boggs (Mahershala Ali) and his squad. Coin decides to continue using Katniss as the face of the revolution, and so the squad includes director Cressida (Natalie Dormer) so that she can film their journey through the city. Unfortunately, the Capitol is rife with "pods," booby traps set up by gamemakers to stop the rebels. While the squad has a holographic map of them, the intel may not be accurate, and the pods seem to be everywhere. To make matters worse, just as they are about to leave, Peeta shows up. While some progress has been made, and his memories are slowly returning, he is still clearly unstable and could try to kill her again.
Mockingjay - Part 2 undoubtedly gives all of the action that Part 1 lacks. From its opening, the film hits the ground running with high stakes action sequences, great special effects to up the ante and perfectly executed cinematography. Even the final act, which slows the action considerably to wrap up loose ends, is rife with tension, and we get the ultimate payout and satisfying end for Katniss. Despite a few pacing issues, the film manages to keep action moving, raising the question of splitting the films in the first place, as it could easily have succeeded as one with some filler scenes from the first part removed.
What makes Mockingjay so successful though is still the incredible performances by the cast. Jennifer Lawrence stuns in her complex portrayal of Katniss' anger, grief and compassion. She makes Katniss so distinctly human, running the entire gamut of emotion, dialogue and gesture. The rest of the cast provides excellent support, and it's simply unfortunate that we don't get more of the delightful Jena Malone or the wonderful Woody Harrelson as Haymitch because they are truly spectacular.
Most noteworthy of Mockingjay, and The Hunger Games as a whole, is its darkness. The franchise has consistently grown heavier, fraught with political power struggles that result in immense loss and tragedy. Even darker than Part 1 with so much killing and death, Part 2 makes it all too easy to forget that this is a film aimed at a young adult audience. Perhaps a reflection of the times in which we live, Mockingjay stands as a powerful conclusion to a dark series.
Images courtesy of Lionsgate Entertainment.