I've really enjoyed The Hunger Games series and I'm rather sad it's all over. When the first one came out, initially I dismissed it as Twilight-esque young adult fodder, eagerly chasing the same demographic.
However, once I actually sat down to watch it, I was blown away by how much better it was than all that sparkly vampire nonsense. It had a proper story, a decent cast and dealt with some genuinely dark and mature themes. The sequel, Catching Fire, improved on the first film in practically every way.
It was a slicker, more assured take on the same basic concept and it just worked. Then they messed up. They decided to split the final book, widely considered the shortest and weakest one, into two films, purely motivated by financial reasons. Mockingjay Part 1 was alright, but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was just treading water until Part 2 as it had seemingly endless talk and little action.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is the reluctant figurehead for the rebellion against the Capitol, the aristocratic oppressors that have kept them downtrodden for close to a century. The rebels have gained ground and are ready to march on the Capitol district and forceably overthrow the villainous President Snow (Donald Sutherland). That's about as far as I can go without spoiling the series for non- Hunger Games fans. Being the fourth film in the saga, no allowances are made or people not up on the lore.
I have to admit, it's a slight disappointment as a conclusion. It's solid enough, but I wish the series had gone out with more of a bang than this. There are a lot of things to like. Jennifer Lawrence is terrific as Katniss. She continues to ground the character with a believable turn as someone who is both a brave action heroine and a relatable, broken human.
Whilst initially a bit shaky, I think Josh Hutcherson has grown into his part as Peeta Mellark nicely. The character started off kind of annoyingly nice and innocent, but life has completely worked him over. Now he's more of twitchy, scarred war veteran, which is much easier to take. Donald Sutherland is on fine menacing form as President Snow and he's consistently been a series highpoint for me.
This is also Philip Seymour Hoffman's final film and his performance made me miss him all over again. He was truly one of the greats.
I think pacing is the key issue. Having got most of the necessary talking out of the way, I expected Part 2 to be balls-to-the-wall action, but alas, it was not to be. Even when the rare action beat does happen, it's like the film is in a rush to get back to the parts where our heroes sleepily bare their souls when hunkering down for the night.
The only big action scene of note takes place in the sewers and leans heavily on James Cameron's Aliens, right down to the pinging electronic device. There was a nice thematic link with the series' origins when it came to the city being booby-trapped, much in the same way the Hunger Games arenas were.
However, Katniss and co. have a magical device that tells them where they all are, and despite being told that the info they have may be outdated and not cover additional traps, it never comes up again. Series important characters get offed and the film barely acknowledges them before quickly moving on. Nothing's left to sit with the audience and it undercuts the drama somewhat.
Unusually for an adaptation, I would say the film is too faithful to the book. Having used up a good two thirds of Mockingjay's material with the first film, Part 2 opts to throw everything that remains up on the screen. The trouble with this approach is that some of the things that didn't work on the page are slavishly adapted. A bad idea is a bad idea, no matter the medium.
I realise I'm making the film sound a lot worse than it actually is. It's a solid, smart film that loses its way slightly. It's probably the weakest film in the series, but considering the overall quality so far, that isn't the damning statement it may seem. It's a good end to a great series and I imagine most fans will be happy with how they chose to close out the Hunger Games saga.
Ben Browne, The Popcorn Bucket