The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
Peter Craig, Danny Strong, Suzanne Collins (Novel: Mockingjay)
Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Willow Shields, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Mahershala Ali, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Paula Malcomson, Stanley Tucci, Natalie Dormer, Evan Ross, Elden Henson, Wes Chatham, Eugenie Bondurant, Sarita Choudhury, Stef Dawson, Meta Golding, Patina Miller
PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic material
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
After four films, the vaunted Hunger Games franchise, one of cinema’s biggest, comes to an end that’s not just blistering, but satisfying. Finishing where the prior film left off, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 takes unusual steps to bring the audience to its conclusion, one that challenges how blockbuster franchises are supposed to end.
When Jennifer Lawrence first took on the role of Katniss Everdeen, the Girl on Fire, she was a plucky upstart actress with a single Oscar nomination under her belt and an uncertain cinematic future. By headlining this franchise, she established herself with a level of gravitas that was further supported by her varied roles in small films and other franchises, never choosing to haphazardly tackle a role. Herein, she revels in her meteoric rise to success with a performance that’s world weary, experienced and courageous.
Katniss is the reluctant hero, thrust into the limelight in a battle of survival, but simply wanting to make it out alive and protect her family. As she defied the Capitol, the oligarchic seat of government for the Roman Empire-inspired nation of Panem, she became an unwitting symbol of rebellion that inspired countless thousands of citizens in the various districts to rise up against their oppressors. Likewise, Lawrence has emerged as a symbol of actresses in a Hollywood where gender often dictates a smaller paycheck and less influence within the halls of power.
The Hunger Games franchise has been about fighting corruption, standing up against a government or an ideology that threatens to strangle the life out of all those who don’t adhere to their restrictions and tenets. Inspiring a whole generation of young woman to look at the state of their lives and demand equal treatment under the law. Emboldening the poor in their fight against oligarchic tyranny. Enabling the most accepting segments of the public to fight back against hatred and bigotry. These themes are eloquently displayed in a film that, to some, would seem like just another garden variety dystopian romantic drama, however unfairly.
That’s not how the series has been and although the film certainly tackles that notion during its running time, the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta Mallark (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) is almost secondary to the events taking place. While they are certainly resolved by the film’s conclusion, they are not its reason for being and that’s what makes it stand out so resolutely from the crowd.
Hutcherson is one of the most compelling young actors working today. He wasn’t given enough to do in the prior film, but is now an integral part of the story. His fading mental frailty after intense torture by the Capitol has left him torn and hurting, focused on destroying that which once made him happy. Hutcherson demands our attention whenever he’s on screen and even the superb Lawrence frequently pales in comparison.
Julianne Moore as leader of the rebellion, President Alma Coin, never lets us forget that Coin is little more than an opportunistic politician. While she fights for the right cause, she does so out of a jumbled sense of loyalty to the cause and selfish necessity. She wants to stop the tyranny, but can’t help but indulge in a little of her own. Moore brings the right level of capability and emotion to the role, never ceding her authority or certitude. Sutherland is excellent in his final outing as the conniving Snow, a jarring figure whose unrepentant desire to destroy Katniss and crush the rebellion is never moderated. His smooth, silky charisma oozes venom, showcasing why his character is the villain, but also why the enemy you know isn’t as dangerous as the enemy you don’t.
Finishing out the third of his four outings as director, Francis Lawrence sticks to the major plot beats adequately, keeping the audience engaged and involved even during the slower segments. The intense passion in these smaller scenes speaks volumes about the characters without need for dialogue. While this can be attributed largely to an excellent screenplay by Peter Craig and Danny Strong, avoiding an unnecessary focus on heavy action sequences helps keep the film from becoming what every blockbuster franchise eventually becomes, a grand final battle sequence with minimal physical, emotional or psychological insight.
The Hunger Games: Mockinjay – Part 2 finishes out the series with significantly less action and excitement than the first two films, but that’s one of the reasons it’s so successful. By scaling back the story to focus on the people involved rather than the spectacle at hand, the filmmakers and actors convey a sense of purpose and dedication to the story and its themes rather than the self-gratifying and feckless character-forgotten bores many blockbusters of late have become.
Those who were never a fan of Katniss’ struggles for survival against a vicious dictatorial regime won’t likely be satisfied, but anyone who’s read the books or has fallen in love with the film franchise will certainly feel a sense of relief and satisfaction by the time the credits roll. This is a film that finds its home outside the confines of typical bombastic filmmaking. It’s a result that’s cinematically engaging while remaining emotionally and mentally cohesive.
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