The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is the definition of a critic-proof film. It’s the second half of the final movie in a series with a built-in audience carried over from the popular novels. It gets the same box-office whether or not it’s any good, because fans who are three movies deep are going to watch it no matter what, and there’s no reason for anybody else to jump in right at the end of the story. Despite this, those already invested will find themselves in good hands here, as Mockingjay Part 2 is the best in a series which has improved upon itself with each instalment.
The film opens shortly after Part 1’s cliffhanger ending, finding heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in hospital following an attack by mind-controlled love interest Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Stoic soldier Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) is the other side of the mandatory love triangle, which has always been one of the series’ least interesting elements. From here, the plot moves quickly towards an assault on the highly-defended Capitol, with the specifically-stated goal of killing Panem’s cruel ruler President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
Katniss has been chosen as a symbol of the revolution – a capably violent but genuinely compassionate mascot – and much is made of her involvement in propaganda. Even her final mission begins as a PR exercise, as a film crew joins her on a fictionalised warzone expedition, well behind the front lines. Alongside this examination of wartime machinations, the film also offers a number of creative action setpieces, as the team activates various traps strewn about the city. The best of these is a well-crafted horror sequence set in the city’s sewers, where the group is relentlessly attacked by eyeless creatures. Don’t take your kids to see this.
Now that it’s complete, it’s safe to say The Hunger Games is the best of the recent spate of post-Harry Potter YA novel adaptations. They’re all more or less the same movie (oppressive government, armed revolution) but this franchise has succeeded through fine casting. There are a lot of real actors in here giving real performances. The head of the rebels is played by Julianne Moore, her opposite number is the aforementioned Donald Sutherland and even young lead Jennifer Lawrence is an Oscar winner. On a sadder note, this film will be the final screen appearance of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who still had four roles ready for release when he died in 2014. He was one of the great actors of his generation, and he brings quiet confidence to his role here as a manipulative advisor.
Mockingjay Part 2 is a strong ending to a relatively strong series, but you already know if you’re likely to see it. It’s fair to take umbrage at the increasingly-common trend of franchise films being split in half to double the box-office take (Harry Potter, Twilight, arguably The Hobbit), but in this case both halves make a strong impression as standalone films. Nevertheless, it would be nice if that never happened again.