Welcome to the 76th Hunger Games. Part 2.
Although the flaws only further emphasise the fact that these last two parts could have been combined into one better whole, Mockingjay Part 2 remains a fitting enough conclusion to a solid franchise.After the first part won over millions – although, in some ways, little more than a PG-13 Battle Royale, it pushed the boundaries of what we could expect from a YA franchise – Catching Fire only expanded the rich universe and stoked the impending revolution. The decision to make the final instalment into two parts, however, saw us burdened with an overly-padded, goes-nowhere PR exercise in Part 1, whose only significant elements played out in the final few moments of the film’s overlong runtime. Indeed, had an abridged version been used for Part 2's prologue, instead, we could have surely had one great single conclusion to an impressive trilogy, rather than a slightly indulgent final chapter in a bloated and flawed quadrilogy.Although getting off to a slightly slow start, a tense, trap-laden second act paves the way for a strong third, the series finally upping its game for the first time since Catching Fire, literally unleashing the dogs for a sequence that wouldn't have felt out of place in Aliens, or a zombie flick. The final twists, whilst perhaps not viscerally satisfying, provide a strong conclusion for the series, bringing closure to those we've watched evolve across the franchise, and raising the stakes with emotional heft, rather than just political subterfuge. It has far from a grand scale - given the money the franchise has made, it's surprising to how limited it is, the revolution itself far from epic - but it’s a fitting end nonetheless.
Picture QualityIt's not exactly a spectacular closing chapter, visually, providing an oftentimes dour, far from demo denouement.
Lionsgate's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray promotes the movie with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Detail is frequently impressive, maybe even exceptional, particularly in the latter daylight sequences, and also for the close-ups, day and sometimes even night. There's some striking clarity in these scenes, with strong textures, fine skin observation, hair and clothing weaves, whilst background nuances are bring the wartorn landscape to life. More often than you'd like, however, the film drifts into more questionably murky territory, dabbling in a bit of a softness here, losing a bit of detail there, and struggling to cope with an inherently dour, drab environment, which was obviously the intentional look the filmmakers were going for, but which does not exactly lend itself towards demo visual magnificence. A solid, but flawed presentation which won't be getting any reference marks.
Sound QualityCas Harlow reviewed the audio using a standard 5.1-channel setup - The final entry in the saga (or is it?!) goes out with a tremendous bang courtesy of an outstanding Dolby TrueHD core, picking up on finer touches whilst raining down chaos for the more elaborate setpieces, with the city-destroying traps igniting the soundstage and ripping right through your living room. Dialogue remains clear and coherent throughout, rising above the maelstrom, finely disseminated across the front and centre channels, whilst the score, familiar now across the series, providing an at-times rousing, at-times softly effective background accompaniment. It's the effects coverage that often defines the piece though, able to cater for the action, both large and small; picking up on the smaller atmospherics as much as the louder deluge, and delivering at every level.
With a Dolby Atmos upgrade, Mockingjay Part 2 reaches a new level on the sound front.
Steve Withers reviewed the audio using a 7.2.4-channel Dolby Atmos setup - Following on from Part 1, that also boasted a Dolby Atmos soundtrack on its Blu-ray release, the final part of the Hunger Games 'trilogy' delivers another great immersive experience. The first part used the overhead speakers to creative effective during certain key scenes such as the bombing of District 13 but now, with a more action-packed second half, the sound designers really get a chance to show what they can do with Dolby Atmos. The result is a marvellous soundtrack that takes full advantage of the additional speakers to really give the boobytrap sequences in the deserted city greater impact. The use of dynamic range to go from a quiet scene to sudden devastation is highly effective, bringing the entire sound field to life and completely immersing you in the chaos. However the sound mix is equally as good in the less showy sequences, keeping dialogue clear and giving various locations a realistic sense of atmosphere. Overall the Dolby Atmos mix is another example of how immersive audio can enhance your experience and, whatever you may think of the film, you won't be disappointed by the soundtrack.
Steelbook ExtrasThere may be several different flavours of Hunger Games releases available, whether as a 4-film set, or a steelbook package, or a 4-film steelbook package for that matter, but Mockingjay Part 2's extras are common across all, with a packed disc that provides a comprehensive salvo, headlined by an Audio Commentary from the Director and Producer, and supported by a massive, feature-length Documentary which competes with the main feature in terms of runtime, and is split into 8 parts dipping into everything from story to casting, costume and production design to visual effects. We also get a couple of photo Galleries from the production and, indeed, the saga, as well as a look at some of the franchise memorabilia.
Aside from a comprehensive extras package, we also get a number of different packaging options.
For Mockingjay - Part 2 itself, the UK's steelbook matches up to those for the previous entries, now with the full-blown phoenix-mockingjay adorning the cover. Fans will certainly want to complete their collection of the individual steels which will, undoubtedly, look impressive alongside one another. There is an alternative, however, and that is the impressive Amazon-exclusive collection which has all four films and comes complete with a nicely designed lenticular magnet on top of distinctive images of Katniss and her sister. Your choice.
Blu-ray VerdictDoes Mockingjay Part 2 make up for Part 1? No, not really, only ultimately emphasising the problems with its construction, and the flawed thinking behind padding this tale out. Certainly a more refined, streamlined third movie to conclude this trilogy - with no wasted footage - might have made the prospect of returning to this universe (as has been teased by the Studios, who are keen on doing a Harry Potter with this franchise) a stronger cause to celebrate.
A fitting conclusion to a flawed but still largely solid Young Adult franchise gets a solid but far from reference Blu-ray send-off.
Mockingjay Part 2 does, however, still provide much of what was missing from the first part of the story - the thrills and the tension; the character depth and the character deaths - and does provide a reasonably fitting conclusion to this saga, which is a tough enough ask after the damage already done in the last instalment.
The Blu-ray release promotes solid, though far from exceptional video, but this is arguably made up for somewhat by excellent audio and a superb extras package, all available in one of a couple of UK Steelbook releases - whether as a single release to match up to the previous entries in the mockingjay-art-based series, or in a 4-film collection steelbook. Either way, fans will want to complete their collection.
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