The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
by George Wolf
I roll my eyes as much as the next guy at these obligatory two-part blockbuster finales, but as Mockingjay Part 2 brings The Hunger Games saga to a close, it might be time to reconsider.
A combo with Part 1 for an overlong single film was certainly possible, but the odyssey of Katniss Everdeen wouldn’t feel quite as complete. What began as entertaining “young adult” fare has evolved into a franchise that’s unafraid to take on some very mature themes.
Director Francis Lawrence, who has helmed the films since Catching Fire (still the standout in the series), is back, and we pick up with Katniss still recovering from her attack by a brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).
Rebel leaders Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) want to use Katniss’s status as the Mockingjay for mostly symbolic effect…but c’mon, our girl ain’t gonna sit still for all show and no go!
Katniss wants the head of President Snow (Donald Sutherland), so she and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) sneak off with a battle unit and head for the Capitol. A de-programmed Peeta joins as well, but can he be trusted? Can anyone?
Per usual, J. Lawrence is in complete command of her character, never allowing a misstep along Katniss’s journey from scrappy upstart to badass warrior. She has made the transition seem effortless and completely authentic, confirming again that Lawrence remains one of the most talented actors in film.
The “love triangle” with Gale and Peeta remains muted among the film’s heady matters, which seems all the more appropriate when the few scenes addressing it land with an unfamiliar thud. Sure, Katniss makes the obvious choice, but she’s got more pressing matters.
From the start, F. Lawrence establishes Mockingjay 2 as a film that embraces the bleak. The mood is boldly dark, and Lawrence makes sure it has time to sink in before unleashing the fireworks. But once the group decides to avoid Snow’s traps by heading underground, well, hang on to your butts.
It’s entertaining, tense, even downright scary, but it also wants to matter. This is a war film, and it doesn’t back down from the moral ambiguities and social atrocities that come with the territory. As the aftermath of recent events in Paris continues to play out, there is a conscience here that will feel especially timely.
And, sadly, the end of The Hunger Games also marks Hoffman’s final film appearance. Though the scenes most affected by his untimely death are fairly evident, his exit, like that of this franchise, is handled with the grace and poignancy of a truly fond farewell.