You’ll laugh, cry and jump in The Hunger Games swansong – Mockingjay Part Two.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Review
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Review

Director: Francis Lawrence 

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone, Sam Claflin, Willow Shields, Natalie Dormer

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 137 minutes

Synopsis: Katniss and the District 13 rebels turn their eyes to the Capitol, but Katniss has only one mission, kill President Snow.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 marks the final chapter in the Hunger Games series. That’s right, there is only one last journey to take with Katniss Everdeen (unless Peter Jackson ever gets his hands on it, he loves overextending a book) and be warned – it’s dark. The dark tone is everywhere you look from the dark brown /grey and black uniforms to the murky grey skies and buildings. Gone are all those lovely warm autumnal greens and oranges from the first film, even Effie is wearing a muted colour palette, well muted for her at least. Darkest of all though are the proceeding events, to quote the tagline from James Cameron’s Aliens – this time its war.

Despite its 12A certificate, Mockingjay Part 2 explores some very dark complex themes and issues, and highlights the true price of war – not everyone makes it out alive. The hierarchy of power within the series has always been compelling, and with the world the way it is right now it’s entirely relevant. Those who have read Suzanne Collins’ novels on which the franchise has been adapted from will know the depths of which the story and warring sides sink to, and whilst director Francis Lawrence could have easily sugar-coated events with a saccharine glaze, his decision to be unflinching in the portrayal of war and rebellion is to be commended. Fortunately however, it’s not all doom and gloom, there are plenty of witty one-liners scattered through-out.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Review
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Review

The heart, soul and pulse of the movie is Katniss, and Jennifer Lawrence is once again superb as Miss Everdeen; playing her in such a way that you almost believe that she is a real person. Just when you think that a character can’t possibly be put through any more of an emotional ringer, she is. As brave as Katniss might appear she is not a warrior and whilst those around her shut down and let the nature of war consume them, Katniss still strives to be fair. Once again the relationship between herself and Peeta, and herself and Gale, is kept in the background; well they are at war after all. By having the relationships once more on the back-burner it strengthens the story and makes the romance much more palatable than the likes of Twilight.

There isn’t necessarily a lot by way of plot this time around, but then the purpose of the other films was surely to build everything up to this final battle crescendo. That’s not to say that it’s completely devoid of narrative, there’s still plenty of that, but it doesn’t concern itself with re-treading old ground which is refreshing and appreciated.

For those that were upset about the lack of ‘games’ in the first half of Mockingjay, rest assured the games are back and on a Capitol wide scale. The traps are more devious than Jigsaw ever devised, one of them featuring some black oil reminiscent of The X-Files, another sees some Giger-esque creatures stalk Katniss and her friends deep within the bowels of Capitol. The scenes underground are uncomfortably claustrophobic and eerie; again this isn’t a film for youngsters.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Review
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Review

The pace does disappointingly sag in a few places, especially near the end where we almost fall into a ‘Return of the King cycle of multiple endings’. Jena Malone is once more underused as previous victor Johanna Mason, and there isn’t anywhere near enough of Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair.

Where The Hunger Games series has excelled past other young adult franchises is in keeping a continuity of directors. Both the Twilight and Harry Potter franchises switched directors almost on a film by film basis, with each new director wanting to put their stamp on the series, most of the time at the expense of the franchise. Francis Lawrence has directed all but the first movie, and that means he’s been able to sculpt the tale through three movies, creating a series that feels fully formed and fleshed.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two is devastating and powerful; a brutal ending to an epic saga.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is released in the UK on 19th November.