In Review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 goes 'ultra-dark'

Katniss Everdeen and comrades finally rise up against the Capitol – but should they have done it sooner?

The final instalment of sci-fi blockbuster The Hunger Games, Mockingjay – Part 2 held its world premiere last night in Berlin. The sci-fi blockbuster met with mixed reviews, with some critics describing it as an "electrifying" conclusion to the series and others dismissing it as "predictable".

The film is the second of two cinematic parts based on the Mockingjay novel, the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy written by Suzanne Collins, and the fourth and final instalment in The Hunger Games film series.

Part 2 sees the return of franchise stars Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman (in his final film role). It wraps up the story of Katniss Everdeen, who teams up with Peeta, Gale and Finnick to leave District 13 and liberate the citizens of war-torn Panem, while destroying the evil overlord President Snow.

Many reviewers loved the series, and stayed hooked until the very end.

In the Daily Telegraph Robbie Collin writes that Lawrence and Seymour Hoffman "end the Hunger Games series with an electrifying, high-stakes final showdown". This is "bright, politically conscious storytelling" performed by a "brilliant cast", says Collin, and it concludes with a "scorchingly tense and stylish final chapter".

Collin adds that "it's sad to see this deservedly successful franchise reach the end of its run".

Peter Debruge in Variety agrees, saying the Hunger Games "counters the meager helpings offered by most teen-driven entertainment with one of the heartiest character arcs ever afforded a young female protagonist". This "ultra-dark, deliberately paced climax" ventures down bleaker channels still, says Debruge, paying off the gamble of having stayed true to its source.

But some reviewers found the film frustrating, blaming the recent studio trend to for chopping movie adaptations of much-loved books into "parts".

Benjamin Lee in The Guardian writes that after two thrilling instalments of the Hunger Games, Mockingjay – Part 1 was "forgettable" because it spread its source material too thin. The fallout is still felt in Part 2, he says, though it is a noticeable improvement in some areas.

The pace, however, which had been so tightly controlled in the first two films, is "a curious mess", starting off painfully slowly, then rushing when it really matters, says Lee.

Kevin Maher in The Times complains that the "surprises are few and far between in this workmanlike final instalment". They could have wrapped up the shamefully light narrative in Part 1, says Maher. Instead there are not enough lethal games and too many duff speeches about how "war is, like, really bad, and stuff".

"For a lot of her screen time, in fact, Lawrence doesn't look troubled or pensive at all. Just bored," says Maher. "I know I was."

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is released in the UK on 19 November.

Can Hunger Games really beat Star Wars at the box office?

5 October

Jennifer Lawrence will return as Katniss Everdeen next month for the fourth and final instalment of Hunger Games – and research suggests that it is generating even more excitement than the new Star Wars movie.The most recent Hunger Games (Mockingjay – Part 1) was widely seen as a "lead-up" to the finale, with less "visual panache" than the first two films. But director Francis Lawrence says Part 2 is a "thematically very different" film and "a real war movie".

Some critics are doubtful that it can deliver the full impact of the Suzanne Collins book on which it is based because it has been rated PG-13 or 12A rather than R or 18."To make these movies easier to watch by taming down the violence for a PG-13 rating is to undermine the impact of the Hunger Games series," says JJ Duncan at Zimbio. "Much like anti-war novels such as Johnny Got His Gun and Slaughterhouse Five, the Hunger Games books rely, in part, on stomach-churning descriptions of visceral violence to drive home their message."

Nevertheless, a recent survey published by Variety found that it is even more highly anticipated than Star Wars. Researchers at Piedmont Media Research, which carried out the poll of 3,000 people, said it scored the highest level of anticipation they had recorded in five years, with a rating of 514 out of 1000.

This put it in front of Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens and Avengers: Age of Ultron, which became the fifth highest-grossing film ever when it came out in April – although it was later pushed down to the sixth spot when Jurassic World leapfrogged it. The dinosaur epic raked in around $1.4bn worldwide, making it the third highest-grossing film after Avatar and Titanic.The Force Awakens has been a long-time favourite of the bookmakers to become this year's highest grossing film. Could it possibly be beaten by Hunger Games? At the end of 2014, Ben Skipper at International Business Times predicted that The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 would reach up to $950m. But this was less than half of what he predicted for Star Wars: Episode VII, which he says will be the "biggest film of the year".

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