Well, it’s time to bring this little expedition to a close.
I never planned from the outset to review all of these films, and certainly not in such a short space of time, but left with not much to do stuck at home, I ended up watching them all a few days apart, partly out of a desire to see the end of the story, and party just for completion’s sake.
I’ve chosen to review both parts together, as it makes more sense to review a whole cohesive story together rather than in two parts; they can’t be viewed in a vacuum, they need each other for context, and thus, should be judged together.
Following on from the events of Catching Fire, Katniss is being kept safe in District 13 and tasked with taking on the role of ‘Mockingjay’, the symbolic leader of the rebellion against The Capitol. Meanwhile, Peeta is being kept hostage by the enemy and manipulated against Katniss by the treacherous President Snow.
Although I have decided to group the review of both parts, I will analyse the story beats and moments within each film separately, as to not cause confusion for the reader, or myself, as I could quite easily lose track of all that went on between the two films.
This is the story the series has been gearing up to tell from the start, it’s meandered somewhat in the middle but here we are now, with the characters ready for battle and the world around them crumbling, it feels like a satisfying pay-off for viewers of the last two instalments.
This is also the film that starts to show the most character development and organically evolves arcs that had been established from the start.
Katniss no longer feels as generic. She’s more damaged in these films, and desperate. Her desire to fight morphs from one with selfish intentions to one of righteous indignation, it’s the character wrinkle she’s needed for a while, she has fire here that was sorely missing from the last two films.
Peeta also gets significant character evolution, at long last, arguably he’s the character that undergoes the most change over the finale, and that holds true over both parts, he becomes somewhat of a wildcard, you’re unable to anticipate just what his character will do next, which certainly makes a change from the white-meat, deer-in-the-headlights character we’d come to know in the previous instalments.
I generally like the direction the series took from here on in, I think it really found its feet once it started exploring the wider world and its inhabitants. At the start, it just feels like yet another YA-aimed series with no stand-out features, but by the last two films, it has started to stand on its own two feet.
Granted, you’d have been well within your rights to write it off as another cash-in after the first film, but I feel like you’re rewarded for sticking with it and seeing how things develop.
The quality of the filmmaking has certainly tightened up as the series has gone along, with these two films, in particular, sticking to a nice pace, and doing much better with creating tension, as well as paying off long-running plot details or inferred twists. These twists are more heavily featured in the second part as opposed to the first, but they’re well-built and, more importantly, logical. They don’t come out of nowhere with no reason, in most cases, it has been hinted at, or something has been teased only for the opposite to happen in a manner that makes sense. It has plot twists that serve the pot, in other words, rather than just for the sake of the twist itself.
These films also have a distinct feeling that the first two lacked, they feel more grungy, more industrial. Probably as a result of District 13 surroundings, but even the decadent luxury of The Capitol seems grim in comparison to before.
I was also fond of the cohesive tone the director managed to maintain throughout both films, giving each film enough events to have its own identity while maintaining a mutual atmosphere, much to its benefit, as both films feel breezy and make for easy viewing as a result but also managing to retain a satisfying tension underneath it all.
A sad, and unavoidable, difficulty of these last two films was the passing mid-production of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Limited on his inclusion for the final instalment, I think his inclusion was handled very well, and with great respect. His loss was an extremely sad one, of a tremendously talented actor, and his mark is left indelibly on this franchise.
The second Part sees District 13 launch their attack on The Capitol, while President Snow tries to keep one step ahead, setting traps for them at every turn, and Peeta tries to shake off the effects of The Capitols torture and brainwashing.
Every finale relies on one thing: sticking the landing. You could have all the goodwill in the world drained away by a bad ending (anyone remember Dexter?) especially when you’re a franchise like this, Katniss’ final arrow had to hit the target or the whole series would have fallen apart.
Luckily, it did, and it felt like my perseverance with a series I wasn’t totally on board with had been rewarded. The ending (which I won’t spoil here) was well-built and masterfully executed, the tide turns, characters change, and so does the eventual end goal, but what matter is that it all comes together in the end, and it did.
The finale of a story usually brings along with it a sense of loss, leaning emotionally on characters deaths to further invest the audience, and while all the death don’t have the same punch, most do, and one, in particular, provides the final gut punch to the audience and Katniss which sets up her final actions beautifully.
The characters now feel like they have fulfilled the arcs they started way back at the start, and the film plays with your expectations with some of them, pulling the rug out from under you. I was particularly impressed with how the character of Gale changes from the start to where he is here, and how you as an audience member are encouraged to view him.
One fault I would say of the final film is it suffers from ‘Return of the King syndrome’, or put more simply, it has too many endings.
A perfect closing shot is followed up by another scene in the form of ‘x years later’ showing the characters older and where they are, which is nice to a degree, but also unnecessary, especially when the scene before it would have been a lovely ending to the series as a whole.
These final two films won me over on a lot of the series’ aspects, looking back. I didn’t feel an attachment to the two main characters, Katniss and Peeta, but felt they were extremely strong here, and I was happy with how their story ended. I was interested in seeing more of the world, and they delivered that too. I can’t help but feel like the series got stronger as it progressed, and even with a few quibbles, I still found great enjoyment in this two-part final chapter.
So, I suppose that’s the final word. My determination to finish the series was justly rewarded with a conclusion that ticks all the right boxes for an epic climax. I may not have grown to love the franchise as some have, but these films have at least made me fond of it.