Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part II) (2015) (Review)


The Hunger Games has scorched a successful trail as a film franchise since first appearing on the big screen back in 2012, sparked by the prosperous trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins. Three films later, a loyal legion of fans (myself included) and critically celebrated performances, we have finally reached the ultimate conclusion, in the form of Mockingjay (Part II). Will Katniss’ dystopian swansong be a fitting finale or fall short in matching the glory of previous installments?

Picking up immediately after the events of Part I, Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) reunion with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) stunts her progression to bring down the dictatorship that President Snow (Donald Sutherland) presides over. Star Squad 451, including Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and Finnick Odair (Sam Clafflin), undertake their final attack on the Capitol with the intent of ripping the Capitol's foundations to the ground; but around every twist and turn of their journey lies sinister traps and deceptions that put Katniss’ revolution in peril. It’s more than her life at stake, as the future of Panem rests solely on her shoulders during the ultimate showdown. Director Francis Lawrence helms his third Hunger Games film, following Catching Fire and Mockingjay (Part I).

It's worth noting now that I'm reviewing this film as a fan because I'd struggle to be impartial for a franchise that I have been so engaged and enthralled with since the beginning. Mockingjay was my least favourite book from the trilogy and even I was skeptical at the decision to split the movies. Now, having seen both parts, I'm in conclusion that it was the right move to make - Katniss' final assault on the oppressed society that held their people captive for 75 years needed the room to grow and flourish; making two films allowed this exploration of the source material that would have otherwise felt suffocating to the scale of the novel.

Part 2 of Mockingjay sees the battlefields more treacherous than ever before, even in a film that steams from children killing children. The journey through the Capitol's Pod-filled streets is gripping and extremely intense; at no point do you ever feel like any of these characters are safe - a danger looms over them throughout that refuses to let up, as even in some of the more tender moments, danger is just around the corner... One heart wrenching scenes set in the sewers registers the devastation and desolation that has formed Katniss’ path, fortifying the scale of the revolution and just how much rests on her completion of the operation; love is broken through the demolition that government has over the lives of what are essentially innocent individuals; casualties and fatalities of the war. It’s a haunting representation and reflection of a dystopian reality that may be skewed as our own. However, the most disconcerting thing about this scene, is after the emotion poured into it, we are swiftly thrust back into the action; a reflection that even after heartbreak and loss, you must keep fighting. It's these type of analogies that I believe have made The Hunger Games the gargantuan success that it is.

Whilst the narrative is a successful mix of action, thriller, and more prominently in this instalment, horror, you can thank the success of this film (and indeed franchise) on one person alone. Jennifer Lawrence is the magnetic heart and soul, carrying the entire weight of the global franchise on her shoulders. Her captivating delivery of the damaged Katniss Everdeen and her trials and tribulations that are knowingly amplified in the final outing, as is her own performance, more enthralling than ever before. One scene of Katniss towards the very end of the film, alone, is gut-wrenching viewing where you finally see the Mockingjay, the girl on fire, the leader of a rebellion, the conquerer of oppression, broken to the point of no return, performed exquisitely by Lawrence.

 That's not to say the rest of the cast don't give it their all - Donald Sutherland is probably the strongest of the supporting crowd as the President Snow, loathsome and repellent, but incredibly compelling to watch. Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth do well, as does relatively new addition Natalie Dormer. Julianne Moore's uneasy President Coin character and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman's Heavensbee work well together, offering a little dying and yang as the hierarchy of District 13. Jena Malone, Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks all have moments of brilliance, but used far too sparingly, particularly Banks whose comedic brilliance is missed in the sombre landscape, although probably a predetermined decision to withhold the tone throughout. It is definitely one of the strongest YA casts, but Jennifer Lawrence is the real hero.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part II) bring most of the emotions under the sun for the ending to the gripping saga. Sometimes you don't have time to let some of it wash over you, ricocheting from scene to scene and place to place, but when they get it right, they get it really right. Whether it works as well for non-fans, I do question; it's very uneven and a little bit sporadic, but as a devoted film and book fan, it is very close to be the perfect ending to a rewarding, yet gloomy journey. The odds were most certainly in our favour for this sensational franchise.

Summary: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part II) is a triumphant finale to an almost-faultless series, delving into the darkest and bleakest corners of the narrative for Katniss final swansong, performed seamlessly by Jennifer Lawrence, sparking a more than satisfactory ending to the dystopian phenomenon.


Highlight: Jennifer Lawrence incredible performance as Katniss Everdeen combines an inner-strength and fragility that very few could pull off. No denying the story is a brilliant one and an outstanding film and franchise is the outcome, but Lawrence is absolutely the heart and soul of it.

(10/10)

I couldn't decide between 9.5/10 and 10/10, but my love for the franchise, and how well the epilogue was handled, pushed it up for me. 



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