The creators of The Hunger Games series have done themselves, and their fans, a disservice by splitting the final chapter of Suzanne Collins’ saga into two movies. Up until now the films have been on an upward climb, each one topping the last. The one constant has been Jennifer Lawrence’s charismatic, committed performance as Katniss Everdeen, aka Mockingjay.
This concluding entry in the series is possibly the weakest. It’s unrelentingly glum (as is Katniss) and its purported twists and surprises can be seen coming a mile away.
The through line is Katniss’ determination to assassinate President Snow (a gleefully malevolent Donald Sutherland). At the same time, President Coin (Julianne Moore) becomes more transparent in her efforts to use Katniss as a propaganda weapon in the war for control of Panem—with Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) at her side. Meanwhile, our heroine is distressed to find Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a victim of brainwashing whose tendency toward violence has become almost uncontrollable.
Some of the more colorful recurring characters (Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) have little to do this time around, which further flattens the proceedings and gives the picture a one-note quality. Lawrence is as solid as ever, but her character isn’t as compelling as it was in the earlier installments of the story.
There are some exciting action scenes and impressive visual effects, but they aren’t the reason people go to see The Hunger Games. It’s the characters and their dilemmas that propel this series, and this one concludes with more of a whimper than a bang.