'Hunger Games' finale leaves fans feeling bittersweet

The release of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2” on Nov. 20 marked the end of another popular series of film adaptations—and that was evident in the theater. As I sat in my plush Marcus Theatres movie chair, I could practically feel the anticipation and bittersweet emotions floating through the air as friends and families alike shuffled into the already-crowded theater to see Katniss, Peeta and Gale in action one last time. Although “Part 2” may not live up to some of its predecessors, it is undeniably the emotional, unsettling and suspenseful conclusion that this series deserves.

“Part 2,” as expected, picks up right where “Part 1” left off. Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is shown with a severely bruised neck after Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta Mellark viciously attacked her at the end of the first “Mockingjay” installment. The film wastes no time in throwing its viewers into the thick of the action; the scenes quickly transition from Katniss’s distraught emotion over Peeta to Katniss infiltrating a base in District 2 with other members of her rebellion.

When connecting these scenes to those of “Part 1,” this continuation of events feels a little more even. However, because “Part 2” is portrayed as its own film, the pacing is a little uneven. This speaks to the larger problem of splitting up “Mockingjay” into two parts in the first place. It’s one thing if the source material is too overloaded—like “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” with over 700 pages to adapt to the big screen—but with less than 400 pages of source material to work with from the novel, “Mockingjay,” it is clear that the decision to make two installments was purely a financial one. While “Part 2” does not suffer as much from pacing problems as “Part 1” did, it still sees these issues.

Even though “Mockingjay” could have been condensed into one film, it does give audiences a chance to see the series’ talented arsenal of actors give another performance—and what a spectacle that is. Lawrence, much like Katniss, entered into the arena that is “The Hunger Games” relatively unknown, but emerged from the other side of these adaptations as one of the most popular actresses of our time. From action set pieces as Katniss battles against the Capitol’s mutts, to the more subtle, intimate moments when Katniss reminds Peeta that his favorite color is “sunset orange,” Lawrence is a powerhouse, embodying every bit of Katniss.

“Part 2” also offers Hutcherson the chance to show off his acting skills by portraying a more dramatic side of Peeta. Peeta’s battle is far more psychological than it is physical in this installment, and Hutcherson proved he was up to the challenge. With wild eyes and spit flying from his mouth, Hutcherson’s Peeta shrieks that Katniss is a mutt created by the Capitol—all within the first few scenes of the film. This was one of the moments that stuck with me after the movie ended, and that is completely a testament to his performance. Solid performances from Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland and Liam Hemsworth add to the quality of “Part 2” just as they had in previous films. What makes “The Hunger Games” franchise so successful are these emotional and realistic portrayals, and “Part 2” is no exception.

The conclusion of “The Hunger Games” series comes with mixed emotions. For one, it meant that as I watched the credits roll for “Part 2,” it was the last time for this series. That realization was a loaded one because it marked the end of a tradition for my friends and me. Since the release of “The Hunger Games” in 2012, we had always gone to the premieres of each film—the Friday premiere for “The Hunger Games,” and the midnight premiere for “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay, Part 1.” While being in different colleges prevented us from seeing the premiere of “Part 2,” we still met together to see it over break, and the fact that we would never be able to see a “Hunger Games” film in theaters together made viewing it feel bittersweet.

In all honesty, “Part 2” is not the best film in the series—it suffers from pacing issues, and the plotline is not as novel or intriguing as the first two films. That being said, it is a good film and essential to see if you have been a fan of the series from the beginning. So, when the movie faded to black one last time, I found myself clapping along with the rest of the theater, both for the film itself and for the series that has been with us for many years.

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