It has been long in coming, but the end has finally arrived… well, the second half of the end anyway that started with part 1. Did the delay whet my appetite for the conclusion? Nah, it just annoyed me, but we can debate the splitting of the final book later, first the movie…
The conclusion of Katniss’ saga unfolds as expected and continues to provide Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men: Days of Future Past) with some wonderful moments. It really is a gift to the genre to have a cast and crew that take the output seriously rather than as just a popcorn flick. Katniss has quite the emotional path to traverse through this film to get her to the end. Unfortunately, the experience was split over the two parts so it lost some impact, but it isn’t entirely absent in effect. Strangely, it is Jena Malone’s (Inherent Vice) Johanna that gets the best moments of transformation, much like Katniss at the end of Catching Fire.
The filmmakers worked well around the loss of Phillip Seymour Hoffman (A Most Wanted Man) as well, working in his final moment via a letter so that his presence didn’t simply vanish. This will serve as his last screen appearance in his opus. It isn’t a bad way to go out, but he hadn’t really filmed enough to give him a solid presence, which is a shame.
Even Julianne Moore (Seventh Son) was only barely around this part. They were important moments, but there was little interplay with her and the fighters, which made for an odd balance. The shift was due to a choice on where to focus for the story and it led to complaints about how long the ending of this movie was. I think, however, that comes from misunderstanding the intent.
Had the film ended on a triumphant note in battle (whichever battle you pick), the wrong message would have been sent. In fact, watching this just days after the Paris and Mali attacks was more than a little chilling. War and decision in a war have a cost, a very deadly one for those caught in the cross-hairs, and a very personal one for those in the midst of it. I really give it to Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend ) for directing the ending to bring that out.
Overall, the adaptation is a tad stronger in this final film. The third book was the weakest to begin with, and splitting it to try and get the full story (and make more money) cost the franchise momentum. What it did get in exchange, though, was building Coin’s duplicity and a chance to walk Gale through personal changes and choices so that the the end actually made more sense in the movie than it did the book.
My only real gripe was with the final 90 seconds. The movie really ends with Katniss admitting her love; the “future” scene should have been a tag after the credits or cut completely. That final moment implied the couple healing far too quickly and, oddly, isolated from the rest of the world rather than helping to rebuild it. I didn’t dislike that choice at first, but once it was pointed out, it has gnawed at me.
This final installment wraps up a solid, if uneven, set of films. There is plenty of action and enough emotion to help them last a lot longer than other franchises that have tried. I am also hoping that the studios realize that splitting endings is just a bad choice. It annoys the audience and weakens the results, unless you can use the split to deliver true, complete films rather than parts.