DESPITE REALLY enjoying the first two Hunger Games films I was apprehensive about this one. The third Hunger Games book is by some distance the worst of the trilogy and with the end of this incredibly lucrative franchise in sight the makers have taken the, no doubt purely artistic, decision to split the final book into two films.
The good news is while Mockingjay does not make for good reading, it is the most cinematic of the trilogy. You also have to respect the decision to change the formula - this film removes the titular ‘hunger games’ event from this story, which is a good thing as it freshens up the plot and characters we have followed through two Hunger Games are now seen in a new setting.
We catch up with Katniss Everdeen immediately after the events of Hunger Games 2: Catching Fire. She, and most of her allies, have escaped the Capitol after the Quarter Quell and arrive in the underground rebel base in District 13. Here she meets Alma Coin (Julianne Moore ) the maternal leader of the rebels. She explains to Katniss her importance in the war, why they went to such efforts to rescue her, and how much they need her to be the face and poster girl for their side in the war.
Katniss is conflicted, she never wanted this, she only volunteered as a tribute in the first Hunger Games to save her sister - not to make a political statement. This is what makes Katniss such an interesting heroine, she doesn’t feel the sense of destiny that Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker feels. She just wants to lie low with her family. However when Katniss learns her boyfriend Peeta is being used on TV to discredit her and the revolution, she agrees to be the spokeswoman for the rebellion.
For a film targeted at young adults, Mockingjay really does a good job of showing the importance of propaganda and image in modern conflicts. Katniss is the chosen face of the rebellion picked, not by the people she will inspire, but by spin doctors and marketeers for her looks and media personality gained from the previous hunger games. In one scene she is told she will be “the best dressed rebel in history”. There are also echoes of the Arab Spring and the continuing conflict in Gaza - viral videos in photos, authentic or not, are what inspires the people.
Jennifer Lawrence is excellent as ever, and her supporting cast is great. It is heartbreaking to see Philip Seymour Hoffman in what is his final role knowing he was struggling with addictions at the time of filming. He underplays his role perfectly as the avuncular media mastermind.
Natalie Dormer (pictured above ), Liam Hemsworth, and Elizabeth Banks all do what they can with minor roles. Josh Hutcherson does more with his limited screen time than he has in the last two movies put together despite having less time on-screen than ever. The script does sometimes let its cast down but they are all fully committed and it is straight faces all around with some of the more cringey dialogue.
Mockingjay has turned out to be a really pleasant surprise. There is little action, certainly less than the previous films in the franchise but the tension and plot twists more than makes up for it. With all the big Marvel, DC, and Star Wars movies coming out next year I had not really given the final Hunger Games film much thought, but if standards can be maintained at this height and a satisfactory ending be given to a really underrated series of films, it might have a better legacy than other high grossing franchises like the bloated Hobbit movies or messy Pirates Of The Caribbean saga.