When we rejoin Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) after a year-long break, she’s still as miserable as ever. That misery continues and deepens for almost two-and-a-quarter hours – friendships are ruined, alliances are broken, and a whole lot of people are killed – and it’s absolutely delicious.
Mockingjay Part 1 eased us into the idea of there being no more arenas for Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) to run around in, and the result was fairly intimate. It took advantage of the opportunity for tears and drama, but it was far less action-packed compared to what we’re used to. It also felt slightly claustrophobic, what with everyone being shacked up in an underground bunker for most of the film. If Part 1 was the spark, Part 2 is the explosion.
Communication between District 13 and the Capitol had mostly consisted of teasing pokes and disguised tactics up until this point. Peeta’s torture and hijacking was painful and distressing, and President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) rose bomb was downright disturbing, but they were still only games to Snow. Part Two finally kick-starts an all-out war.
Katniss may as well be back in the arena; along with Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Boggs (Mahershala Ali), Finnick (Sam Claflin), her film crew, some new hard-ball military types and a very volatile, very hijacked Peeta, Katniss attempts to make her way, undetected, through the war-torn streets of the Capitol to Snow’s mansion right in the centre. But difficulties arise when they realise Snow is expecting her. The streets are riddle with pods – virtually invisible obstacles that, when touched, can trigger anything from large-scale explosions to mutts to tidal waves of boiling tar. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 76th Hunger Games,” jokes Finnick after learning of the pods. You may jest, Finnick, but you are so right.
A couple of the hotly anticipated key scenes from the book aren’t anywhere near as affecting in film form, but what Mockingjay Part 2 lacks in those areas it more than makes up for in others. The best Katniss is the Katniss that speaks from the heart, and thankfully, without the cover of the Games, that’s all she does in this film.
Jennifer Lawrence is on top form as always, and carries the film on her shoulders effortlessly and with much teenage-messiah angst, while the supporting cast – particularly the younger members – have upped their game. Hutcherson is practically playing a different character, but he still manages to make the new murderous Peeta just as likeable as the nice, painting-and-baking one. However, the real scene-stealer is Sutherland as ruthless ruler Snow. His borderline-insane personality and sinister presence overshadows all the other players, whether he’s cracking one-liners, coughing up blood or having a heart-to-heart with the Mockingjay.
Part 2 is longer than the first by 15 minutes, but none of it feels stretched. Everything is needed and everything adds to a constant but powerful sense of on-coming doom. As far as YA film adaptations go, this is one of the very best. There was never any chance for sagas like The Divergent Series or The Maze Runner while The Hunger Games was still going. It’s emotional, effecting, tense and brutal, and continues to tower over the rest.
The final quarter of Katniss’s story is perhaps not as incredible as the first quarter, but it’s easily as thrilling, nail-biting and devastating. The Hunger Games is one of those rare instances where a movie series manages to live up to the acclaim of the books, and this final film is thoroughly satisfying in all the right places.
Check out our video review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 here.