Film Reviews
Jennifer Lawrence in 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2'

‘Mockingjay – Part 2’: Its Aim is True

The fourth and final Hunger Games film is a fitting end to the saga, even when it slows down to tie up loose ends

For the most part, final chapters get a bad rap. All sequels do, since they’re condemned to live under the shadow of the original no matter how good they may turn out to be on their own. Still, public opinion declares the concluding episode is in almost all aspects the worst one of the bunch because tying loose ends in a satisfactory manner is hard even for the most experienced storyteller, and making matters worse, the authors are competing with their fan base’s preconceived idea of a proper finale. All this makes it rather pointless to ask whether The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2, the final adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ series of YA novels, is better than the first Hunger Games film, the impressive follow-up Catching Fire or even Mockingjay — Part 1, the previous installment in the series. We can only analyze whether Part 2 holds up on its own.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2
President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland) chills out while being chilling
in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2. (SOURCE: Lionsgate.)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 in a Nutshell

Some backstory for the uninitiated: no longer being kept in line by the sadistic spectacles of rose-loving despot President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland), the Districts of the dystopian future-state known as Panem are in full-blown rebellion and marching towards the Capitol. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), former Hunger Games victor and unwilling rebel pin-up girl, is in recovery from being nearly choked to death by brainwashed Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), co-champion and would-be love interest. Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), President of District 13 and leader of the uprising, is seemingly content to keep using Everdeen, along with all remaining game victors, as cheerleaders and far away from the action, a thought seemingly shared by her rebel propaganda strategist, game maker Plutarch Heavesbee (the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman in his last role). However, both Katniss and Gail Hawthorne (Chris Hemsworth), her BFF and love-triangle-bachelor number two, plan on being the ones to reach Snow’s mansion, kill the sick bastard and end this destructive conflict themselves. Easier said than done, since they’ll have to infiltrate a Capitol that’s been heavily booby-trapped and transformed into a deadly game arena, a Hunger Games to end them all.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), Boggs (Mahershala Ali) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) lead the all-star
rebel squad in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2. (SOURCE: Lionsgate.)

Split Down the Middle

In case the title didn’t already give it away, this is the second half in a two-part adaptation of the last volume from a three-book saga, making The Hunger Games movie series a four-part trilogy (Douglas Adams must be snickering in his grave right now). This, you may recall, is a recent cinema trend pioneered by the Harry Potter series, where a beloved book is split into two or more movies. Even when done by expert craftsmen, this practice can often feel like a cash grab to squeeze fans of the novels dry (looking at you, Hobbit trilogy). However, after watching Mockingjay — Part 2 and thinking about all the nice things I had to say about The Twilight Series: Breaking Dawn, Part 2, I’ve come to a surprising conclusion: it’s not the filmmakers’ fault.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2
President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) ponders how to best use the Girl on Fire
in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2. (SOURCE: Lionsgate.)

Having read and liked all three of Collins’ books, I’m confident the Mockingjay adaptation could’ve worked as one movie, needing only fifteen more minutes to fill us in on relevant details such as Katniss’ role as the face of the revolution, Peeta’s rescue and his brainwashing. I share the same opinion about Stephenie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows even though both are unread by me. Why cut them in half, then? Because it’s all about keeping the fan base happy (which my niece and my daughter-in-law fervently represent). Novels as a medium are unbound by temporal constraints, so authors can pile on twists, turns and flourishes in their narrative to their heart’s content. Therefore, a split finale is really the only way to make sure you show the fans all their favorite moments from the book (the Hanging Tree song, for example) and give each of their beloved characters a proper send-off.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2
Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is a danger to himself and others
in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2. (SOURCE: Lionsgate.)

Worthy Players

What’s important is that Mockingjay — Part 2, unlike its previous chapter, is quite good both as a standalone film and as a faithful part of the Hunger Games saga. All the cast, both young and old, has grown so well into their roles that almost immediately I lost touch of them as actors and saw only their characters. I only saw Hoffman as Hoffman, not because of a flaw in his performance but out of a morbid fascination to discover where exactly he was “filled-in” to account for his untimely passing (the Brandon Lee Effect, if you will). The production, as always, is top-notch in every department. It’s especially nice to see how Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend), the man behind all but one of the four HG films, has grown as a director to the point that he can rehash the same exact concept three times in a row and make it feel different on every single outing. He knows instinctively when to take his time in character development and when to speed the pace before the kiddies fall asleep, at least until the inevitable final stretch where scenes from the book are checked off his list for the sake of fan service.

Verdict

To sum up, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 is decent entertainment and a proper wrap-up of the Hunger Games film saga. It’s no Catching Fire (there I go again comparing), but it’ll do. More importantly, it’s a dignified bookend for a very cool female action film heroine, something I’ve mentioned recently is still very hard to come by. It aims toward the heart of all fans of the Girl on Fire, my own girls included, and it doesn’t miss a shot. The odds truly are in its favor.

Now showing only in theaters.
Details

Movie title: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2

Movie description: The fourth and final Hunger Games film is a fitting end to the saga, even when it slows down to tie up loose ends.

Date published: 2015-11-21

Director(s): Francis Lawrence

Actor(s): Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Dormer, Mahershala Ali, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci

Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction

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