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Film review: with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, Lawrence graduates from young adult fantasy

Popular franchise comes to an end with mixed results

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 November, 2015, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 November, 2015, 5:06pm

Every game has to end – even this hugely popular film franchise based on Suzanne Collins’ hit young adult novel trilogy. Set in the totalitarian state of Panem, where youngsters are made to fight to the death, the last episode saw former Games winner Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) emerge as the so-called “Mockingjay”, the figurehead set to unite the divided districts against Donald Sutherland’s ruthless President Snow.

With Collins’ concluding novel Mockingjay split across two films, this 137 minute take on the book’s second half feels indulgent in the extreme. Previous attempts to milk a final book by making two films – Harry Potter, Twilight – have produced similarly mixed results; directed by Francis Lawrence, who has helmed all of the episodes apart from the 2012 original, Mockingjay – Part 2 loses momentum for that same reason.

When we join Katniss, she’s bruised and barely speaking, after surviving a strangling from her now-brainwashed on-off lover Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). But she’s soon inciting revolution at the behest of Julianne Moore’s silver-haired leader, Alma Coin. “Turn your weapons to Snow,” she cries, before plotting to storm The Capitol. The pace picks up as Katniss traverses a city laced with booby traps – an oil flood and a tunnel full of mutants provide the film’s best action scenes.

Nearly all the support characters return, including Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Liam Hemsworth, lumbered with the franchise’s most thankless role, Katniss’ fellow District 12 friend Gale. Most movingly, the film also marks the final screen appearance by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman; you rather wish his role, as Coin’s associate Plutarch Heavensbee, was more expansive.

Yet Mockingjay – Part 2 suffers from predictable plotting and sedentary pacing in the final act, not to mention a rather drab aesthetic that makes you yearn for the wild colours of the earlier films. Fans of J-Law will doubtless get their fix here, but it’s hardly her finest hour. With the Games over, there will be better things to come from her.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 opens on November 19