*The last paragraph expresses short analysis* Here we are again friends. Straight out of the gate I need to make it clear that I love The Hunger Games series more than just about anyone you might find, so there is a bias. That being said, I would like to pretend to say I see its weaknesses. I honestly was disappointed with the last film and I know the first film isn't perfect. So walking into The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, I was hoping beyond hope for something at least moderately satisfying.
Before we get to that, let's briefly talk about our story. In our final chapter, Katniss Everdeen needs to storm the capitol and defeat the malevolent President Snow, to end the tyranny that has killed countless innocents for generations. Is she up for the task? Well, I guess that is what we will find out.
Soooooooooooooo. . . Did Mockingjay need to be split into two parts? Let's get right to it, and the answer is No. That being said, surprisingly, I firmly believe that everything in Mockingjay - Part 2 was needed. However, I also believe with all my heart that only forty minutes were needed of the last one. What should have happened is that we had a three hour epic, but, well, Hollywood. Sadly, I believe the first Mockingjay was a gratuitous cash grab.
Here however we have the story we deserve.
I can't emphasize that enough. Let me put a preface however, that this movie isn't for everyone. If you have hated Hunger Games from the get-go you're not going to fall in love with it here. That being said, if you have been caught up in the whirlwind of emotion as I have, this will be a thoroughly satisfying finale. As it should be clear from the beginning, The Hunger Games Trilogy (yes, I said trilogy. Mockingjay is only one film whose true opening scene is “last film's” storming of the dam) has always been a drama first and foremost. The action is merely there to supplement the story so the meat of the narrative and the underlying themes can have a greater impact. This may disappoint some people when I say it, but The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 is not an action film. Yes, we do get our heavy doses of kick-butt shenanigans here and there, but we are there for Katniss' story arc first and foremost. All the explosions and like thereof are just a means of telling her compelling narrative.
However if we are here, we might as well talk about the action. Aside from Catching Fire - which is the shining pinnacle of the Hunger Games films - our second part of Mockingjay gets the action right the most. The way crucial moments happen are both shocking and breathtaking in execution. Besides the obvious brilliant special effects, cinematography and production design - which have become staples of the franchise - there is an emotional element to the action that pervades the film. We're not just there for gimmicks. We actually have real thought provoking ideas to digest: what revolution really entails, sacrifice, love, and all of the other rewarding themes that makes Hunger Games so special. More so than ever, these ideas are presented in such a way that gets one to question choices that originally seemed so black and white. The person at the forefront making these choices is Katniss.
Katniss Everdeen, for the better, truly is at the front of her narrative here, as she should be, and as always Jennifer Lawrence gives a mind-bogglingly special performance. I'm going to try and not be upset about her not being recognized when award season comes, but needless to say J-Law is fan-freakin'-tastic. As has always been the case, her performance cuts to the heart. Every single nuanced emotion coming off of her face is felt. The confrontation with her character throughout the entire series is so much deeper than anything we see on a regular basis. At one front she just is a conflicted teen who just wants to protect her family. On the other front, there is a deeply nuanced love triangle, but it doesn't define her. At the other end we have someone who is brilliantly intuitive and knows how to get what she wants, and it's not beneath her to shove everyone to the ground to do that. She is someone who is just plain stubbornly idiotic, and poignantly feeble and flawed. What save her from being so achingly dislikable though, is that there is a warmth. She actually cares. As much as she might want to convince otherwise and put up false facades, Katniss is emotionally affected by everyone and truly just wants the best. There are few people on earth that can pull off the emotions needed for such a role. I could go at length about why I love Jennifer Lawrence, but I am merely speaking to the wind if you have not invested time and emotion in this saga. What I will say though is whether you like Katniss Everdeen or not, a debate needs to be had for whether she is the most fascinating, multi-layered female heroine in the history of film. Props to Suzanne Collins for writing such a nuanced character and Ms. Lawrence for having the wherewithal to pull it off.
As much as I love J-Law though, I got to recognize some others. Everyone else is standout great (including to my shock, even Liam Hemsworth as Gale). I wish I could recognize everyone and write extensive paragraphs on Haymitch, Effie, Finnick, Joanna, Boggs, Plutarch. . . but there really is just the big three, the ones who have been there from the beginning and have been why I love this franchise so much. Donald Sutherland as President Snow, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss are standout amazing.
Here, more than ever, Josh Hutcherson shows why he was cast in this role. The complicated emotions Peeta Mellark has to extend in this final chapter require a level of acting ability many just don't have. I won't exactly tell you what those emotions are, but if you've seen the previous film or read the book you know exactly what I am talking about. Regardless, I need to stress how vital Josh Hutcherson has been to this role. His arc, while at first seemed to be coated in one too many layers of frosting, has developed into something that has transcended gender stereo types as someone who can pull off intense strength and charisma while still being a delicate flower (and I mean that in the best way possible). Josh Hutcherson took that and made it his own, while continuing to grow into that believably empathetic and twisted character with every film. He simply has been stellar and I will only be looking forward to see what the rest of his career has to offer.
One who already has had such a incredible career is Donald Sutherland. I can only hope that him as President Snow goes down in history as one of the greatest cinematic villains of our time. Donald Sutherland plays this character with such depth and tenacity. He attacks every line with such unnerving elegance and malevolence that it truly is legendary. As a human being he is truly invested in the role. In multiple interviews I have seen him talk at length how at the end of life he wants to be able to look back and know he was apart of something greater than himself; and how it is his fervent hope that these films would be a catalyst to stimulate our generations to get off there butts to be involved in the political arena. You can feel that in his character He truly, deeply cares about his performance which is one of the many reasons why he's so darn compelling.
Now, do all these amazing performances add up to a perfect film? I won't go that far. I believe there is some trip ups in the first fifteen minutes that feel emotionally forced. The rest of the film however is on another level of brilliance. Don't be confused by critics who love to hate, this last chapter is everything and more that you could hope for. I would just recommend not expecting this film to be a blockbuster extravaganza with crazy action. Don't get me wrong. The action is fantastic, but that is not the focus. The Huger Games Series is a character driven drama through and through. Now this begs the question if it is just a drama at its core, how much can you do with admittedly Suzanne Collin's weakest drama of the trilogy? Surprisingly, way more than I could have ever thought. Francis Lawrence and the screenwriters somehow managed to find a way to make it way better than it should have been. It is slotted in the right time, not glossing over important details which a lesser film would have ignored, nor succumbing to a cheap ending that doesn't pay tribute to the die hard fans. Instead, we are given precisely what was needed: Katniss' story arc. In that respect, this is the most satisfying of all Hunger Games films and is the reason why I have fallen head over heels in love with this saga.
Personal Preference: 5/5
Critical Analysis: 4.5/5