When your first three films have made $2.3 billion around the globe, I guess you can do just about anything you want for the finale, and the choice for the filmmakers of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 was to go dark. Very dark. This fourth and final entry into the cinematic world of Katniss and company is a bit of overkill, but certainly will please fans who can now say they have lived though the whole epic story which of course was cooked up by Suzanne Collins in her literary trilogy. The final book, Mockingjay was split into two parts for the movie version, just as most of these YA sagas have done — why not maximize the box office bucks if you can?

deadline-review-badge-pete-hammondThis edition, which brings it all to a halt, is 136 minutes and grim, gray and action-filled. But as I say in my video review (click above to watch), the mesmerizing presence of Jennifer Lawrence in a signature role as Katniss Everdeen — symbol of the resistance and ace fighter — more than makes up for any flaws in a story that has been dragged out about as far as you can go. With the nation of Panem fully engaged in an apocalyptic war, Katniss is trotted out to be the image of the freedom fighter, but not much else. This role clearly puts her at odds with the leader of the insurgents, President Coin (Julianne Moore), who has been the ultimate good guy but now enters into a much more complex and complicated relationship with Katniss. Is Coin really all she says she is?

There are twists and turns here, and it also remains the most intriguing part of the story, which has Katniss and her old crew back together including Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick (Sam Claflin) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) — the latter still reeling from his brainwashing. They set out in battle mode throughout the Capitol with the ultimate goal of assassinating President Snow (Donald Sutherland), their longtime nemesis. Other characters are also back but in a lesser capacity including fan favorite Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) and Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). (Hoffman’s participation seems to be particularly truncated, a fact no doubt due to the actor’s sudden death nearly two years ago as both Mockingjay films were simultaneously in production.)

Francis  Lawrence, director of all but the first installment in the series, focuses on the serious side of the story and delivers an earnest downer for those who remember the vibrancy of the first films, particularly Catching Fire — still , in my opinion, the best of the Hunger Games quartet. Danny Strong and Peter Craig shared screenwriting duties again, while Nina Jacobson and Jon Kilik continue to get very rich as producers of this blockbuster series, which I think overall remains the best of its genre. A lot of the credit goes to JLaw. Lionsgate releases this Friday.

Do you plan to see Mockingjay – Part 2?  Of COURSE you do. Let us know what you think.