‘Mockingjay’ satisfying, imperfect ending to ‘Hunger Games’ saga

One of two things needs to happen: either young adult authors need to write shorter books, or movie studios should just make extremely long adaptations with intermissions in the middle.

I say this because the division of “Mockingjay” — the third and final novel in the “Hunger Games” series — into two films did nothing to help its cause.

Last year’s “Mockingjay Part 1” was decent enough, a collection of intriguing subplots about how propaganda fuels the ideological war machine between two opposing factions. But for most of its runtime, the main thrust of the narrative was pushed aside, making it feel like a two-hour trailer for the finale.

That finale is here with “Mockingjay Part 2,” which ties up all the loose ends you would expect in fairly satisfactory ways. It doesn’t quite stick the landing in the final 20 minutes, but its usually fine craftsmanship and surprising bleakness make it a thoroughly enjoyable installment.

It picks up right where last year’s film left off, with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) recovering from his brainwashing at the hands of Snow (Donald Sutherland).

Meanwhile, the resistance is gearing up for its final push on the Capitol. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) understandably wants to kill Snow herself, so she joins the troops as the movement’s forward-facing figurehead while Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) pulls the strings from behind the scenes.

While the last film featured a great deal of aforementioned intrigue about propaganda and such, this one ruminates more on the ethics of war’s physical violence. The war has taken a toll on Katniss, who is hardened and cynical now.

Especially near the beginning, she wonders about just whom it is justifiable to kill, who are the true enemies and who are just helpless pawns. One character sees a hypothetical Capitol janitor as still helping the enemy, while Katniss sees them as being in an unenviable position of Snow’s manipulation.

That theme of whether or not the people in this conflict have control of their lives permeates the story, and it’s one of the best aspects of “Mockingjay Part 2.” It’s merely just one aspect of the film’s general tone of despair.

The bulk of the action sees Katniss and Co. working their way through the Capitol, navigating a series of traps devised by the former game makers. The film drags at points during this part of the story, and it’s not always great.

The prime example would be an encounter with zombie-like creatures in the Capitol’s sewers. It goes on for a few minutes too long and the setting is often too dark to tell what is happening, the lone criticism I have of the film’s quality cinematography.

It also peters out somewhat for 15 or 20 minutes at the end, directly following Katniss’ final, climactic decision. The events that unfold are satisfying enough, but the presentation leaves something to be desired.

Overall, however, “Mockingjay Part 2” provides an entertaining closure to the saga. “Catching Fire” still remains the series high point by far, but we can all rest knowing the series never took any serious missteps along the way.