Promise me you’ll find it.
The life of a victor.
I’ve been pretty chilly toward the previous Hunger Games movies which have always had good things in them, usually good performances and a pretty relentless darkness, but they’ve also always been pretty flawed in my opinion. Luckily, they saved the best for last and this is head and shoulders above the other films in the series. I still might prefer the first hour of Catching Fire as the strongest section of a film, but then we all know how awful Catching Fire was after that first hour, right? This one holds together the best as a film and, while I was skeptical, it benefits from being separated from the events of Part 1; Part 1 suffered by not being much a movie – this one benefits by being able to leap right into the second act of a movie. That’s a fine trade, I guess. One Mockingjay movie wouldn’t have resulted in a movie as bad as Part 1, but it also wouldn’t have resulted in a movie as good as Part 2. The performances are once again quite good, though, as usual, some of the really interesting characters simply get lost in the shuffle, so you’ll miss Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jena Malone in particular, who have almost no screen time. But Lawrence once again gives a wonderful performance and Donald Sutherland also gives his best performance in the franchise, having a little more time and a little more depth this time around. There are two scenes here where Lawrence and Sutherland come face to face and those are probably the two best scenes in the movie. Josh Hutcherson is, I would say, better than he’s been to date as well; I’ve always liked his performance, but it’s much better this time around. The movie is enjoyable pretty well the whole way through. The action and suspense stuff inside the Capitol really works. An action sequence in the labyrinthine sewers under the Capitol is the stuff of nightmares and incredibly intense. And the actual climax of the film is satisfyingly, well, anti-climactic and nihilistic. I mean, yes, I have my problems with the final scene. I haven’t read the books, but I would bet that Lawrence’s final monologue is lifted right from the books and that’s unfortunate, since it’s a real clunker. I would have much preferred had the film ended a scene earlier, with an ending that is still hopeful, but also more realistic and with a tinge of the darkness that has kind of defined this series at its best. The final scene is a jarring tone change and it really didn’t work for me at all. Still, consistently entertaining, character based, intense and bracingly grim at times. The series has certainly not been consistent at all, but a strong ending is worth something. 3 ½ stars.
tl;dr – final film in series is head & shoulders above the others; only occasionally weak, this film is a fittingly anti-climactic climax to a surprisingly dark series. 3 ½ stars.