Just as with the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games films have grown darker with each installment. Some may not be fond of the change of tone but I like my YA films dark. I never read the books so I come at this from a pure movie going experience. While I have not been enthralled with the films I have enjoyed them. I also enjoy Jennifer Lawrence, both on screen and off. Her Katniss Everdeen is a hero, stalwart, loyal and idealistic. Off-screen, Lawrence is a complete nerd, clumsy, loud and completely self-deprecating. It really tells you what a good actress she is that she completely transforms into Katniss in these films. What’s true about her perosnality is what comes across in whatever role she plays – she’s genuine. She has a joy and openness which makes her such a good performer.
In this film finale, the rebels prepare for the last battle with President Snow and The Capitol. President Coin does not want Katniss involved in the battle and wants to keep her safe behind enemy lines to do propaganda for the rebels but Katniss has other plans. She wants to kill Snow herself. She stows away on one of the aircraft headed to the front lines and then the fun begins. The story becomes so simple and straight forward that it seems very unlike the preceding films. Perhaps because, as with the final Potter films, the final book on which the series is based, was turned into two films, this final entry feels tagged on. If not for the studios greed there would have just been 1 Mockingjay film that ran three hours and probably would have been a better overall experience.
I expected the final film to be an all out war film, big battle sequences, explosions and such. But what we get is a ‘secret mission’ movie. A small group of heroes Katniss, Gale, Finnick, Boggs, Cressida and a few ‘red shirts’ plus a still brainwashed Peeta, make their way through a booby trapped Capitol and face one obstacle after another while slowly taking casualties. It’s very exciting and suspenseful and builds nicely to a big showdown at the gates of Snow’s mansion which doesn’t go exactly as planned.
I felt satisfied with how it ends. It took me by surprise. I also like that the story became smaller rather than bigger like most blockbuster films. This was Katniss’ journey all the way and Lawrence really owns the screen. Some well known characters only get cameos (Stanley Tucci, Jenna Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Elizabeth Banks) But Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore and Donald Sutherland get some good screen time. Sutherland is always good playing a rascal whether he is the bad guy or the good guy though he mostly plays bad guys these days due to his age and white beard. The late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffman died during filming and you can tell which scenes he would have been in if he were still here with us. There is also one scene where they obviously use an image of him and superimpose him into the scene. So sad. The effects are good, the story compelling and Jennifer Lawrence delivers the emotions for the big pay off.