It’s here, folks. After four years of Katniss Everdeen firing off more arrows than one can count, the four-film franchise is over with a dutiful, but still undoubtedly deflated, ending.
Lionsgate studio executives continued the profitable trend set by young adult franchise predecessors “Harry Potter” and “Twilight,” by halving the final book of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy. In “Mockingjay – Part 2,” the film’s star Jennifer Lawrence seemingly knows there are franchise dollars to be hastily made and does her best – as usual – so everyone can run happily straight to the bank after.
Director Francis Lawrence picks up right where “Mockingjay – Part 1” left off, fairly assuming that if you don’t know who “The Girl on Fire” is by now, then you should probably get your $8 ticket refunded.
We open with a badly bruised and defeated Katniss (Lawrence) after a violent assassination attempt by her former comrade/friend/fiance Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), whose mind has been rendered paranoid thanks to Capitol forces. The rebellion is in complete chaos, with inter fighting threatening the revolution, and even President Snow (Donald Sutherland) seems bored that Katniss hasn’t caught up with him yet.
And so, as soon as she’s recovered, Plutarch (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Coin (Julianne Moore) whisk her off to be, at first, the star of more propaganda videos, but soon Katniss takes advantage of the frontlines to carry out her personal mission: kill Snow.
Taking its time to tell a skeletal plot, the film makes headway once the weary heroine and her motley camera crew unit – including the bitterly loyal Gale (Liam Hemsworth) – find themselves in relentless survival mode in the rubble-filled Capitol. Fending off attacks by machine gun-strapped buildings, lethal flamethrowers, toxic oil floods and even mutants, the booby-trapped streets give way to an immense body count and quick goodbyes to insignificant characters.
Gone are the illustrious and somewhat comical pageantry of the previous films, “Mockingjay – Part 2” hits hard with its bleakness and makes it known that this is primarily a war movie. Keyword being “primarily,” since we still have to deal with the eye-roll inducing love triangle with Peeta and Gale.
While the series has unexpectedly kept its acting credibility and production values above grade across four features, some will find the too–sugary nature of its final scenes disappointing. Still, Lawerence skillfully steers her emotionally exhausted ship home, and she’s matched – surprisingly – by Hutcherson, who gives a stirring heartfelt performance as the damaged Peeta.
If you want to give your last three-finger salute, do so. “Mockingjay – Part 2” is an ambitiously dark film providing Lawrence a suitable farewell for one of today’s great heroines in cinema.