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New Release Review - THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2

The conclusion of the blockbuster Young Adult series.

Review by Joshua Mitchell (@jlfm97)

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Natalie Dormer, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci


"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 is an entertaining and, at times, impressively powerful film. It has no shortage of problems, and lacks subtlety, but director Francis Lawrence has done a commendable job of capping off a largely intriguing franchise."




It's a sad truth of life now that movie franchises never truly end. The Harry Potter franchise that successfully profited from the "series that grows up with you" gimmick now has a spin-off in the works with planned sequels unlikely to mature further with an R rating. Lord of the Rings spawned a lengthy prequel trilogy that has been widely deemed as an unnecessary disappointment. And even the formerly anti-sequel Pixar are churning out second chapters to some of their classics (including their most controversial upcoming project; Toy Story 4). Indeed, while The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 is being advertised as "the last shot" and "the epic conclusion" and whatnot, it would be a genuine surprise if some kind of prequel or spinoff wasn't announced within the next six months. So even though Mockingjay Part 2 is probably not the last we'll see of Panem and the districts, it's still a surprisingly satisfying "finale."
With the districts aligned and various captives recently rescued, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and a small squad of friends and soldiers set out to Panem on an assassination mission against President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), struggling to recover from the physical and psychological torture of the last film, has also been included on the journey, despite his involuntary attacks on various crew members, specifically Katniss. As Katniss and Peeta try to reconstruct their relationship, they must also reassemble their world into the peaceful one from generations ago.
The first 45 minutes are fairly troubling, acting as a regurgitation of the ideas from Mockingjay Part 1. Katniss is back to posing for film crews as the face of the rebellion, there's more faux political satire, and we continue the predictable character arcs. This only serves to make the decision to split Suzanne Collins' last book into two parts seem even more unnecessary.
Thankfully, after the actual mission begins, Mockingjay Part 2 manages to revive some of what made the first two installments so gripping. There are a couple of thrilling action sequences (one is seemingly plucked straight from Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, but is still a lot of fun), and moments of grim deaths and violence that are fairly powerful. This may be the bleakest chapter in the Hunger Games franchise, which is no small achievement.
The love triangle (it's hard to even call it as such when it's painfully obvious where it's going) attempts to soften the edges of the dark and tragic story. Yet, it really just cheapens the film and the characters. And though the films would be a lot stronger if the romantic element had been extracted, they do serve an effective purpose, which is enticing audiences that normally wouldn't watch movies with such weighty material. And though its slight pandering to accommodate specific audiences may prove irritating (any moment involving children is particularly clumsy), one can't help but admire how much blatant violence and thoughtful material is being provided for said audiences. 
Jennifer Lawrence delivers another impressive performance as a character that's gotten less and less interesting over time. It's notable just how much Lawrence manages to get out of a character that's been largely reduced to an absolute girl scout at this point. Love interests Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth fare better than they had in previous chapters, thanks to a script that gives them a lot more to do than before. Donald Sutherland is the highlight of the cast as he is clearly revelling in every moment as the sick, deliciously evil President Snow. His scenes are among the film's best.  
The rest of the enormous supporting cast are very good as well. Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Patina Miller are excellent as somewhat flat characters. Jena Malone adds a much needed edge to contrast the heroics of Katniss. Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks get small token appearances (the former of which filling in for a scene clearly meant for Philip Seymour Hoffman had he not died before filming was over). Stanley Tucci's presence here is completely shoehorned, but he's always a welcome addition no matter how contrived it may be.
Though it takes a long time to get started (and the epilogue runs a bit long), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 is an entertaining and, at times, impressively powerful film. It has no shortage of problems, and lacks subtlety, but director Francis Lawrence has done a commendable job of (temporarily) capping off a largely intriguing franchise. There's some real food for thought here, and while cynics may insist it's been done better in other movies, one has to at least appreciate a film that attempts to cover such serious themes when aiming for a teenage audience.
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