It’s almost over, and by “it,” I mean the times we’ll have to type the cumbersomely titled “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” as well as the franchise itself. That ungainly punctuation says much about the money-grabbing distention of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of books into a four-film series (with spinoffs to come?). But according to the first reviews, “THG:MP2” — that’s better, isn’t it? — at least sticks the landing, and solidifies Jennifer Lawrence as one of the most forceful movie stars on the planet. Like a Netflix show built to be binge-watched, “Mockingjay — Part 2” gives no quarter to newbies, picking up precisely where its predecessor left off and wasting little time or verbiage on recapping the past. (“Part 1” is available on Hulu.) If the earlier movie was mainly set up, along with some rich thematic exploration of the manufacturing of heroism, this one’s mostly action, leading to the assault on Panem’s Capital before segueing into the requisite multiple endings.
Along with Lawrence, one of the movie’s most memorable performances comes from the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose lack of a proper onscreen resolution for his character is covered over by the arrival of a final letter, a far better alternative than the original plan to recreate him using a digital double. A few critics raise objections about franchise fatigue, but by now, most have accepted “The Hunger Games” series for what it is: well-executed, modestly thoughtful, mildly feminist — not an all-timer, but solid enough to gain cumulative power from its 547 total minutes. (Take that, “Out 1”!) The halfhearted love triangle remains the series’ weakest link — instead of Team Peeta vs. Team Gale, can there be a Team Explore Other Options? — and though readers will be expecting the stories’ final twists, it will be interesting to say the least to see how theatrical audiences who don’t know what’s coming react. We’ll find out when the movie opens November 20.
Peter Debruge, Variety
What started as a game culminates in deadly serious terms with a full-scale overthrow of the system itself in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” which counters the meager helpings offered by most teen-driven entertainment with one of the heartiest character arcs ever afforded a young female protagonist. Katniss may be 17 years old as “The Hunger Games” reaches its long-awaited finale, but in the hands of director Francis Lawrence (who took the reins from Gary Ross after the first film), the series has veered far from the realm of traditional young-adult entertainment. For all intents and purposes, “Mockingjay” is a war movie, albeit one starring an iconic, athletic Joan of Arc-like heroine (once again played by Jennifer Lawrence) and featuring battle scenes that feel suspiciously like extensions of previous Hunger Games — those arena death matches where sadistic dictator Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland, that master of the menacing grin) unleashed high-tech and bioengineered weapons, which have since been tucked away into booby-trapped “pods” all over the Capitol streets.
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
“Mockingjay — Part 2” proves to be the most satisfying, gripping and emotional film in the franchise, resolving Katniss Everdeen’s odyssey with tense action sequences and a well-earned poignancy. If the series never quite transcended its melodramatic young adult roots or heavy-handed socio-political commentary, this third sequel nevertheless moves along with grim, propulsive confidence, once again leaning on Jennifer Lawrence’s steel-jawed performance as a young woman who becomes the unlikely leader of a rebellion over which she has less and less control.
Mike Ryan, Uproxx
The “Hunger Games” movies — just on their own, separate from the books — have been a true phenomenon. It’s almost weird that the four movies came out so quickly to each other – this sudden burst of popular culture that’s now (sort of) over. I honestly do think these movies are important. I do think it’s terrific that young women, and young men, have a strong “action hero-type” female character to call their own. And, yes, this movie lets us say goodbye to an actor we loved — and an actor that millions of kids will now never forget and, hopefully, inspire them to watch his other work someday. I think all that is much more important than any minor plot quibbles that I might have with the second half of a two-part movie of a four-part series. These movies represent something good.
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
The first two films managed the challenge of visually presenting the books’ violence without tipping into territory their target demo couldn’t handle. “Mockingjay,” though, strays too far into darkness: With its political power struggles and prodigious body count, all rendered in a thousand shades of wintry greige, the movie feels less like teen entertainment than a sort of “Hunger Games of Thrones.” The acting and production values are still well above grade, and Lawrence skillfully holds the center, letting everything the skeletal dialogue doesn’t say play across her face. Like the arrow-slinging, empire-saving Joan of Archery she’s portraying, she understands the symbolic weight she’s been asked to carry here. If only it didn’t have to hang so heavy.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
“It gets a little tedious after all these years,” Katniss Everdeen admits about her life’s obligations in her final line of dialogue after 547 accumulated minutes of “The Hunger Games” films. It’s hard not to agree with her, nor to imagine that there are too many people — Jennifer Lawrence included — who will be sorry to see this overdrawn series end. What started off onscreen as a lush, outdoorsy, futuristic gladiatorial adventure has, to close things out, become a dark, often stifling tale of rebel insurrection that takes place largely underground or in dangerous urban ruins.