THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2
The Evolution of the Revolution
The stakes are upped and the proximity to reality is striking in this dark, violent, thought-provoking and gripping end to the young adult series. It might not be overly enjoyable, but it’s significant.
12A, 137 mins
This is the end. We’ve heard the phrase so many times in relation to film series and sagas over the years, and now we come to it again. The Hunger Games, the dystopian young adult series based on Suzanne Collins’ books, bows out with love, war and moral murkiness with Mockingjay Part 2, the concluding part of the series which has encompassed reality television, celebrity culture and finally revolution.
If you’re unfamiliar with the set-up, the thrust is this. The dictatorial state of the Capitol ruled Panem with an iron fist, crushing all possible uprisings. That is, until former Hunger Games contestant Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) turned up and started the fires of rebellion amongst its impoverished people. I say started – Mockingjay Part 1 felt slow and ponderous, and the fires of rebellion barely got going before the film flickered and went out.
There’s no such trouble here. We’re straight back in where we left off, with Katniss’ constant companion Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) recovering from being poisoned and brainwashed by the malevolent forces of the Capitol, led by President Snow (Donald Sutherland), with Katniss looking on helplessly.
But something is brewing. All the usual suspects are back for one last throw of the dice, one last all-out battle, the corrupt super-rich state against the deprived, wronged citizens of the Districts. There is a definite sense of finality about everything, and for Katniss the objective is simple – kill Snow, and end his reign of terror for good. And also in the meantime sort out her murky love life, which is a straight choice between old-time love and all-round charming hunk Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta, an all-round nice guy though somewhat of a drip, who surely must also get points for sounding like both a type of bread and a duck simultaneously.
The performances are once more a solid point in the series’ favour. Donald Sutherland oozes cool as Snow, Lawrence’s icy stoicism and righteous anger as Katniss have never been used better, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman is once more a standout figure, despite only appearing in a handful of scenes. His Plutarch Heavensbee, though a back-room character ever since his introduction, has consummately been one of the more upstanding and likeable personages in a world almost entirely populated by morally questionable individuals doing morally questionable things. His presence in Mockingjay Part 2, however brief, is no exception.
But what’s more, the film doesn’t stint on the ideas either. All the themes that were thrown around in previous films, of performance, of what’s real and what’s not, of the lure of power, of oppression and freedom, it’s all there again, and has never been more relevant. This final story is arguably the biggest performance of all, and figuring the reality from the fantasy, the truth from the posturing, is vital to survival.
The link with the present day is also evident in the story’s events themselves. The film boasts many thrilling action sequences, one of which is utterly terrifying and, at least in me, brought recent world events to mind, which only heightened the sense of unease I felt whilst watching it. It only hammered home the fact that art can sometimes come very close to reality, whether it always intends to do so or not. And it is as a result of this that the film achieves something very strong – a sense that it is exactly right for this moment in time, skewering a good few things that are wrong with the world.
The film is admirable for what it is trying to show, though, like the futility and stupidity of war, and the strangeness of adjusting to life in the aftermath of one, among other things. Given that, it’s not particularly entertaining, though you can’t really fault the film on that as with such subject matter to deal with, it was never going to be. The message may be unsubtle, but it’s relevant. And so while Mockingjay Part 2 may not be enjoyable, it just might be important.
The ending is perhaps deliberately unnerving, and markedly different to the usual ending of a young adult film series (there are twists), but this is handled very well. It is perhaps the first series of recent adaptations to end on a somewhat bittersweet note. It left me feeling slightly uncertain, but that’s purely because this series is unafraid of showing the world as it is, without sugar-coating it. Harrowing is and has always been The Hunger Games’ middle name.
The view of Mockingjay Part 2, though, may crystallise and become clear with time, as thoughts on all things do. The world moves fast, too fast at times, perhaps – but the Hunger Games films, fiery, impassioned and with something to say, have kept pace with them very well.