There are few movies based on books that actually surpass their source material, and The Hunger Games series has done just that. With the final chapter of the series having finally hit theaters, The Hunger Games film franchise comes to a very satisfying conclusion that puts a very nice punctuation mark on this whole enterprise.
Mockingjay - Part 2 picks up right where Part 1 left off and really doesn't let off the gas until the finale. This is the final battle between the rebels of Panem and the Capitol and it does not disappoint. However, where a lot of movies could have gone and screwed around with the ending of the book to make it more Hollywoodified, this movie does not.
For all four movies, the filmmakers of The Hunger Games franchise respected what Suzanne Collins wrote so much that they never really deviated from it. Too many book to film adaptations try to jazz up their source material by adding in unnecessary scenes that clearly show they don't trust what was already a bestseller on the page, and had the filmmakers done that here, it would have diluted the strong themes at work in the story. Thankfully, director Francis Lawrence and company managed to keep the spirit of the book in tact and surpass it with some truly phenomenal filmmaking craft.
The Hunger Games books were already so cinematic in the way that they played out on the page, that the idea of adapting them into movies was a no-brainer, and Mockingjay - Part 2 accentuates why with ease. From the highly emotional musical score by the unsung hero of the franchise, James Newton Howard, to the always phenomenal cinematography and art direction, Mockingjay - Part 2 fires on all cylinders behind the scenes to elevate what was already great in the book, to something that really manages to milk out even more emotion than what the written word could.
There's always going to be that argument in storytelling circles over which is the better form, literature or film, and I think here Mockingjay - Part 2 proves how film can be effective in ways that literature just never can. When you add together the haunting beauty of an image with the clever choices made in what we see and what we don't see in the editing, as well as the aural nature of the music and sound effects, film can be a storytelling medium unlike any other. There is still always going to be something about the written word that is special and meaningful, you can have more detail in certain areas (in particular in the thoughts and feelings of the characters) that you can never have in a film, but as is the case here, the things that makes films unique makes The Hunger Games franchise one of the best film franchises over the past decade. Of course, a large part of that success stems back to the exceptional cast of these films.
From Julianne Moore to a final screen performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Hunger Games movies have always been stuffed to the gills with great established actors. They all do great work as usual, but I don't think anyone quite realizes how much the filmmakers lucked up with the first film in locking down the main trio of Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth, before they all went through the stratosphere (in particular Oscar winner Lawrence). These three are just such good actors that it has always looked effortless for them, with Jennifer Lawrence once more affirming with this film that Katniss Everdeen was a once-in-a-lifetime role for her. The three stars all manage to round out the series with some of their finest work to date, allowing all of the many emotional gut punches that this film packs, really leave their mark.
Now sitting here at the end of this whole thing, it really is astonishing to see how great The Hunger Games movies are as a whole. There is a consistency in tone and style that has bled over from one film to the next, which is something most other similar film franchises have struggled with. Director Gary Ross came in and set up the template with the first film, and then with these last three, Francis Lawrence took over and didn't change anything from Ross's vision, he just refined it and made it even more hauntingly beautiful. Then there is the political and social commentary beneath the lovable characters and high emotions that often get overlooked I feel by many who watch these movies and see them as just another action/adventure story. The ideas on government, war, and the media, that Suzanne Collins tried to say through the writing of the books, really carried over into all four films, allowing these films to be something more than every other young adult sci-fi dystopia. It is a rarity to see movies this thoughtful made by the Hollywood studio system and it is why I will greatly miss these yearly excursions to the world of Panem.
I give The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 a 10 out of 10!