Film review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 gives fitting send-off to Katniss Everdeen

The hugely popular Hunger Games movie saga reaches its thrilling conclusion with the release of Mockingjay – Part 2. But does it live up to hopes and expections?

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. Murray Close
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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Director: Francis Lawrence

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson

Four stars

The first movie in The Hunger Games saga – based on the trilogy of young-adult novels by Suzanne Collins – captured the world's imagination, with its fast-paced, gut-wrenching action as children were forced to battle each other in the titular annual death match in the futuristic world of Panem.

The sequel – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – delved into the characters' relationships, as an opposition to the sadistic regime of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) started to form around the first film's heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence).

The third movie – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, based on the first half of the of the final book in the trilogy – set the scene for the final movie – Mockingjay – Part 2 – which features the final battle between the rebels and Snow's forces.

It picks up from where the previous film ended, with Katniss recovering from the battle at the medical centre of the underground rebel command base.

The rebels are plotting their takeover of the last of the 13 districts still under government control, before advancing on The Capital.

Katniss’s beloved Peeta Mellark is back with the rebels, but has been brainwashed into wanting to kill her.

She defies orders to rest and recuperate to join her comrades in arms, discovering in the process that the battlefield has been laced with deadly booby traps.

The special effects are impressive, as you would expect from the franchise, but the action is slower-paced than the other films in the franchise.

Whereas the battles in the previous Hunger Games films were played out in a more colourful world, the battle sequences in this film reflect the grey murkiness of the political arena itself.

This story is as much about politics as it is about edge-of-your-seat action. The rebels spin their own cloudy version of the truth, and will to go to any lengths to win the war. More than ever, the ever-watchful, Big Brother-style cameras and the political and moral vacuum of Snow’s Panem regime gives the film a very Orwellian flavour.

Against a backdrop of what could be any 21st-century war-torn city, Katniss and her small band of rebel fighters encounter deadly oil slicks, a living sea of shrapnel, and mutated humans that resemble the extraterrestrial killing machines from in Alien movies, which is perhaps apt as you can see many of the gritty qualities Alien heroine Ellen Ripley reflected in Katniss. She has the same resolute outer strength, undercut by inner turmoil – the type of movie hero we are more used to seeing played by a male lead.

Katniss’s ever-present angst epitomises the growing pains of teenagers since time immemorial – the pressure to conform and perform, moral confusion, trust issues and a persistent will to rebel. Like Lawrence herself, in some ways, Katniss is a reluctant celebrity.

In a neat reversal, this film, like its predecessors, features an array of kick-ass female heroines, contrasting with the slightly weedy male lead Peeta who is the one who agonises over and likes to talk about his feelings.

Like most of the rebel characters in the gritty and bleak world of Panam, Katniss is now too traumatised and battle-hardened to express much in the way of sentimentality towards anyone.

Nevertheless, she continues to wrestle with the dilemma of which of her two male admirers – Peeta and her childhood sweetheart, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) – she should choose.

Reflecting the bleakness that has defined the series, as the saga reaches its conclusion, Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in his final screen role) writes in a letter to Katniss: “We are fickle, stupid beings with a great gift for self destruction.”

However, the series ends with at least a glimmer of the hope and humanity that we’ve all been waiting to see for the last three movies. Despite the bleakness, its political lessons are insightful and the unexpected twists and turns in the story don’t disappoint.

Katniss and the world of Panem will be sorely missed.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 comes out in the UAE on Thursday November 19