The Hunger Games series has always been an odd fit for a blockbuster movie series. Centered on a dystopia in which children of poor districts are pitted against each other in a fight to the death by a sadistic central government, the series has never been uplifting, even when the hero, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), has been able to usurp the Capital’s authority.
So anyone thinking that the finale, Mockingjay — Part 2, will be cathartic and not devastating has another thing coming. Picking up directly after Katniss was attacked by her ally Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) in Mockingjay — Part 1, the rebels slowly but surely make their way toward the Capital, hoping to take down President Snow (Donald Sutherland) once and for all.
Just as she was in Part 1, Katniss is used more for propaganda than for her fighting skills by District 13 President Coin (Julianne Moore). With the help of Gale (Liam Hemsworth), she escapes from under Coin’s thumb and joins a group to try to make one final push at toppling the Capital.
At almost two-and-a-half hours, the final film is too long, and even worse, director Francis Lawrence and writers Peter Craig and Danny Strong have trouble filling it properly. They over-explain relatively minor situations and vastly under-explain important ones, to the point that the film’s most meaningful sequence ends in utter confusion.
Still, there’s something to say about a story that cares less about doing the expected things to please an audience and more about staying true to the original vision. The final film is dark and depressing, with perhaps a tinge of commentary on the current state of warfare in the world. The action scenes would be thrilling if the series hadn’t already established the brutal stakes of the story.
Lawrence, as she has done in many others, carries the film. Lines that could come off as cheesy or forced from another actor sound completely natural coming from her. That said, it’s a good thing this is the final Hunger Games, as the repetitive nature of the role seems to be taking its toll on her.
In his final performance, Philip Seymour Hoffman shows a quiet strength that’s emblematic of many of his roles. His part, likely due to his premature death, is limited to a handful of scenes, but he still manages to make an impression in each one of them.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 is not the rousing finale that many may want and it has significant pacing and storytelling issues. But it ends the story on its terms and not in an arbitrary feel-good way, which should be considered an accomplishment in this day and age.