For all the talk of this final instalment of the wildly popular Hunger Games series promising to be an ‘epic’ conclusion to the dystopian drama, very little generates a spark, let alone catches fire.
It’s a real shame a franchise that has given us so many great moments, and in the case of its second movie Catching Fire a genuinely top-drawer slice of blockbuster entertainment, should cross the finish line with such an exhausted stumble.
Those who care about such things will no doubt have an opinion over whether the decision to split the final part of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy into two films was right or wrong from an artistic perspective. However, it’s essentially a moot point as we have to judge Mockingjay – Part 2 on its merits – which are sadly lacking for the most part.
The film picks up almost exactly where Part 1 left off, with a brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) having tried to murder Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), who is finding the burden of being the face of the resistance a heavy weight to shoulder.
With the pieces being moved into place, the final assault against the Capital and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) gets underway, but this is a fight fraught with danger, not only from the deadly traps set within the Capital, but also from inside their own ranks as Katniss, Peeta and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) struggle to address their love triangle while trying desperately to survive.
It almost goes without saying, but Lawrence is once again excellent in the role that has defined her career to date. The shell shock that Katniss has been experiencing since her first, horrific encounter in the Hunger Games has only grown more acute as time has gone on and left her as a husk, whose only motivation is to assassinate Snow.
Lawrence effectively conveys both the terror of being sucked into a violent and unpredictable situation, as well as the dead-eyed resignation of someone desensitized to events around her. In the hands of a lesser actor, Katniss could easily come across as miserable, but Lawrence has continually imbued the character with an intriguing mix of vulnerability and steel.
The supporting cast provides suitable back-up, most notably a lively, but under-utilised turn from Jena Malone as the mentally damaged Johanna; a reliably excellent Sutherland as the pitiless Snow; and the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman in his final screen appearance as puppet master Plutarch Heavensbee (a scene towards the end involving a letter from Heavensbee would have worked so much better had Hoffman appeared in it).
The film finds an extra gear when the assault on the Capital finally begins in earnest and the springing of the traps laid down by Snow’s Gamesmakers recapture some of the magic of the first two movies. Likewise, an extended sewer sequence where Katniss and co must overcome creatures borrowed from The Descent is pulse-quickening stuff and nods heavily in the direction of Alien/Aliens.
However, just when the film feels like it’s ready to lift off, the foot is taken off the gas as the characters talk themselves into a stupor. As such, the pacing of Mockingjay – Part 2 is all over the place, veering disjointedly from moments of tension to swathes of glacial tedium. A similar issue affected Part 1, although it was saved in part by the subtle commentary on how the media war and actual conflict help to fuel each other.
The final section feels anticlimactic (a symptom of adhering so closely to what is considered the weakest of the books) and underwhelming, while the much-discussed final scene, although earned on Katniss’ part, feels like it belongs in a lesser Young Adult adaptation.
After the mouth-watering treat of the previous three courses, it’s a shame The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 concludes this banquet in such an unsatisfactory way.