The trend of splitting up the final book in a series into two parts for the film adaptation isn't one that I'm generally a fan of. It often simply feels like a way to get another film out of a franchise before it ends, a cheap way for a studio to earn some extra money at the cost of quality, and in some ways the Hunger Games series falls into this trap - having read the books on which the films are based, I can say with some certainty that Mockingjay, the final book, didn't need to be spread out over two films. It's the shortest of the three books and could have easily been adapted from page to screen and kept at a reasonable length, avoiding the slower pace that put some people off The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (and will put those people off The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 in the same way).
That being said, I liked The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 precisely because of how different it was to the films that came before it, and I like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 for much the same reason. We start the film as District 13 begins its assault on The Capitol, and follow Katniss, her camera crew and her combat unit miles behind the front line of the war as they continue to make propaganda films in the booby-trapped streets of The Capitol.
Although The Hunger Games (and to some extent, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) were somewhat hindered by them fitting firmly into the increasingly popular Young Adult Dystopian genre, I was relieved to see this aspect of the franchise pretty much eradicated in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 - not only was the third film in the series not centred around yet another games (this repetition of formula is my biggest problem with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Young Adult fiction in general), it also dropped much of the teenage angst and forced love-triangle that distracted these films from the genuinely interesting aspects that they contained. The result was a film that for the first time was really allowed to tackle the themes that were lurking just below the surface of the first two Hunger Games films, improving both the film itself and the series as a whole - and I'm glad to see that for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 is smart enough to leave most of the Young Adult baggage behind.
I say “most of” because much to my annoyance, the film takes a break at one point to reintroduce the Katniss/Peeta/Gale love triangle that I dislike so much. It’s not that love triangles are overdone in Young Adult fiction (which they are) or even that it’s a poorly written love triangle (which it is) - it’s just that Gale is the most boring character in these films bar none, a totally unnecessary aspect of the franchise who should have been culled in the translation from book to screen. More frustrating is that the time used by this part of the story would have been much better used elsewhere - because despite the slower pacing of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, certain parts of it do feel rushed, particularly the process of Peeta recovering from his time in The Capitol and the progress of the war itself, both which seem to happen in between scenes rather than on-screen.
And despite The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 being predominantly set up for what I assumed to be an action packed finale in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, there really isn’t that much action - which would be more of an issue if what little we do get wasn’t so impressive. The main set piece in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 sees Katniss, her camera crew and her combat unit travel through the sewers under The Capitol in order to get closed to President Snow’s mansion, and it’s legitimately a great piece of film making - bringing to mind a scene from Aliens mixed with monsters straight out of Guillermo Del Toro’s imagination, it’s a sequence that is at once hugely scary, incredibly tense and very memorable, easily the best part of both the film in question and the entire franchise.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Mockingjay double-bill holds up when watched back to back (I imagine that the minor pacing issues in the two would become more obvious when viewed as a whole), but as it stands The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 is a pretty good end to a franchise that despite never quite reaching its potential in my eyes (I really wish they’d have fixed the ending, a problem present in the books) is still one of the more entertaining blockbuster series in recent years, one that it will be fun to revisit in a decade or so to see that impact it had on the cinematic landscape - I imagine that this series will prove to be quite influential in the future, and I simply can’t see that as a bad thing.