Slick on your war paint with bow and arrows at the ready… this is it. Murmurs of an uprising have surged across the districts of Panem in an unstoppable, festering blaze – finally igniting the long awaited revolution. Fatal cannon blasts have been swapped for execution drum roll – the spectacle of the barbaric Hunger Games broiling into a full blown Civil War. At the helm of the rebellion is Girl on Fire, Katniss Everdeen, who sets out on a historic quest as the nation’s “Mockingjay” to bring down the Capitol and its demonic dictator, President Snow. All or nothing for opposing sides. No bargaining. No games. Payment is in blood.
Francis Lawrence directs the last instalment of the international phenomenon that has sustained the world’s simmering anticipation for five years: we finally get our climactic showdown. Katniss vs Snow. Mockingjay vs President. Justice vs Tyranny. It all ends here. Though off to a slow, almost plodding start, it gradually picks up the pace once our ‘star squad’ set foot in the Capitol; a kingdom now reduced to ash and rubble – converted into a booby-trapped battleground. From here on out, the momentum boils over with a biting tension that fizzes and sparks like wildfire – hurdling toward a heart wrenching climax that detonates as instantly, and as suddenly as when a lighted match strikes petrol.
I don’t think the odds were ever in Mockingjay’s favour when the decision was made to split the final novel into two separate films, following on from the now stale franchise trend set by Harry Potter and Twilight. Although I think it’s unfair to compare the films to the books, Suzanne Collin’s richly detailed and intricately woven novel was so well-structured it seemed like pacing would be an inevitably tough task when it came to dividing the text. While I felt Mockingjay Part 1 was painfully stretched out at points, I think Part 2 was rushed to the extent where the emotional poignancy of the story was stomped down on by a heavy bombardment of disorientating fight scenes and special effects. The drama somehow felt forced, unlike the franchise’s previous instalments. Occasionally, it felt like the film was just frantically gathering up its shoe laces; clumsily throwing the audience shots of missiles and gunfire to deflect attention away from the desperate tying up of loose ends in order to bring the series to a neat, and satisfying close. Admittedly it succeeded to a certain extent, even amongst the messy apocalyptic chaos that dominated throughout, it still managed to subtly capture the moving human tragedy of the story. However the end result ultimately didn’t pack as harrowing a punch as the novel.
Despite this, the Girl on Fire manages to save the film in the process of liberating Panem. Headed into battle for a final time, Oscar, Golden Globe and Bafta winner Jennifer Lawrence (otherwise known as JLaw) delivers yet again, another fantastic performance, bringing razor sharp ferocity and disarming vulnerability to her exceptional portrayal of one of the best loved, and in my opinion, one of the most inspiring female characters in contemporary literature, if not of all time. Katniss, described by Jennifer as a ‘futuristic Joan of Arc’ is such a magnetic protagonist for this block buster franchise, mainly because she possesses human flaws that make her all the more identifiable – she’s an ordinary (albeit very courageous) teenage girl trapped within an unimaginably horrific situation, not a statuesque warrior goddess with badass archery skills! Having said that, she’s incredibly gorgeous, brave and unyieldingly selfless; these traits being amplified by the electrifying empathy that Jennifer’s performance evokes – she’s spell binding while also possessing the rare ability to be genuinely relatable.
As well as embodying a role model onscreen, Jennifer has never ceased to be an inspiration off camera too, most notably for her determination to promote a healthy body image to young girls, using Katniss as a catalyst to encourage this. She said when first embarking upon the Hunger Games franchise, “I think it’s really important for girls to have people to look up to, and feel good about themselves. I don’t want girls to think: ‘I want to look like Katniss, so I’ll skip dinner.’” She’s paved the way for the strong, upcoming leading ladies of modern day cinema, proving that women can be action stars in their own right and that audiences will pay in their masses to go watch these films that have a female lead on the front lines. As co-star Julianne Moore aptly puts it, ‘She really is the heroine you want to watch’.
Accompanying JLaw among the ranks of Panem’s militia are the regular gang; Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin and Donald Sutherland, as well as returning characters from Mockingjay Part 1, Julianne Moore, Natalie Dormer and also the final appearance from the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffman. This star studded supporting cast all provided strong meaty performances, however special mention must be given to Jena Malone; having no more than five minutes screen time, rivals even Jennifer Lawrence for the title of queen scene stealer. Her sharp, almost acidic onscreen presence, achieved in such a brief amount of time was astounding – the ruthless Joanna Mason demands your attention, making you almost afraid to avert your eyes from her for even a second… she may just put an axe in your face.
Amidst the roller coaster ride of visual effects and apocalyptic Call of Duty decor, what pulses through the veins of the action are the sinisterly dystopian socio-political themes, that catapult the Hunger Games franchise above and beyond the sugar coated teen movies churned out by Hollywood studios today. It confronts heavy issues surrounding the inevitable cyclical nature of war and the corruptive, and also corrosive influence power can have on individuals. The film doesn’t patronize the audience it targets – instead it presents a violent dystopian world that parallels problems and struggles within our own reality. Despite the fact that the final instalment to this epic series is simultaneously satisfying and anti – climactic, lacking structure… it still burns with an ominous and arguably timeless resonance.
By Angel Lloyd
Angel Lloyd is 18 and lives in Newcastle though is currently studying at University of York. A graduate of Northern Stars Documentary Academy and the BFI Screenwriting Academy, she is known amongst family and friends as a film fanatic, her infinite list of favourite movies including: Rear Window, Across the Universe, Pulp Fiction and Silver Linings Playbook. Stuck on an island, she would be content with her two favourite albums, T Rex’s The Slider and The Beatles’ Revolver. Whilst making short films, designing movie posters, blogging at gentlysleeping.tumblr.com , film reviewing at fine-wines-available-to-humanity.tumblr.com and occasionally quoting Withnail, she also finds the time to obsess over Breaking Bad, Sweeney Todd and Baz Luhrmann films.