Editor’s Note: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 opens in wide theatrical release today, November 20, 2015.
With the release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 as the fourth and final installment of the dystopian Hunger Games saga, the young adult franchise based on Suzanne Collins’s novels comes to a satisfying end. Jennifer Lawrence reprises her role as the fierce but broken heroine Katniss Everdeen for the last time and is joined by the star-studded ensemble from the preceding films, including Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, among others. Whereas the first part of the finale, Mockingjay - Part 1, was rather character-driven and focused on the inner struggles and the post-traumatic stress disorder of Katniss, and left the action and thrilling suspense dangling somewhere in the background, the second part lives up to its promised expectations and delivers an action-packed final showdown that was slowly being prepared for during the last film.
In comparison to the slow buildup of its predecessor, Mockingjay - Part 2 is fast-paced, suspenseful and straightforward once Katniss makes up her mind.
Mockingjay - Part 2 picks up right where we left off to tie up the loose ends and to wrap up the story of Katniss and her not-quite voluntary fight for a new Panem. The tortured and traumatized Victors held captive by the Capitol were just freed by soldiers from District 13 and the revolutionary war is fully underway with President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) preparing one final mission: to unite all of the districts to finally march into the Capitol to conclude the ultimate battle against the districts’ mutual oppressor, President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Although Katniss has been warned by her arch-enemy that the things we love the most which destroy us, she had to find out the hard way when a hijacked Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) was sent to Katniss as a weapon and tried to choke her to death during their long awaited reunion. The rebel leader who had been reluctant towards her role at first is finally combat-ready and fully determined to assassinate President Snow and liberate the citizens of Panem from the totalitarian state. In comparison to the slow buildup of its predecessor, Mockingjay - Part 2 is fast-paced, suspenseful and straightforward once Katniss makes up her mind.
Teaming up with best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth), former ally and friend Finnick (Sam Claflin), and her propos team consisting of Cressida (Natalie Dormer), Messalla (Evan Ross), Pollux (Elden Henson) and Castor (Wes Chatham), Katniss joins the star squad 451 lead by Boggs (Mahershala Ali) to infiltrate the Capitol for propaganda purposes. Katniss however is on her own personal mission to secretly conquer Snow’s mansion and finally take him down herself. Similar to Mockingjay - Part 1 there is an absence of the actual Hunger Games, the main focus of the first two installments of the franchise, but when the squad reaches its destination, the rebels are confronted with the Capitol’s warfare that replaces the morbid televised battles. The game makers’ strategies used in the Hunger Games come back into play in form of a minefield of deadly traps hidden on every corner and lethal mutts hunting down the star squad.
But there are even further games being played underneath the surface. Katniss and Peeta, who were once afraid of being just another piece in the Capitol’s schemes and who were then used by the two leaders of the opposing political systems for their own benefits, remain the major pieces in the ongoing political game of war. The uncanny and ambiguous president of the opposition, who likes to see herself as the political savior of Panem, is willing to do whatever it takes to gain power after the rebellion. Since Coin is aware of the Mockingjay’s powerful impact on the rebels and the possibility that Katniss’ fame and status might get in the way of her desired outcome of the free elections, she decides to use Peeta to her own advantage. While Snow manipulated him in order to turn him against Katniss in the first place, it is Coin who actually makes the most use of the human weapon and plays her own little games. In a not-so-surprising twist of events she sends Peeta to the Capitol to join the squad and to fight alongside Katniss and her team. Although he is slowly recovering from the torture and the brainwashing, Peeta remains unreliable and a constant threat for Katniss and the whole squad.
The Hunger Games has been brutal yet authentic and honest from the start, criticizing certain aspects of society including a critical look upon the media and its voyeurism…
Throughout the film it is evident that Katniss is disgusted by the warfare of either side, especially by the increasing lack of morality and ethics, even questioning her friend Gale’s methods and one particular strategy that will be key in the outcome of the war and the fate of several characters, including himself. She is also constantly torn between her longing for peace and her hunger for revenge and justice while carrying the heavy burden of leading the revolution as the symbol of the Mockingjay at the same time and permanently fighting for her own and her friends’ survival as well as dealing with her personal guilt, yet willing to sacrifice herself as martyr. That’s quite a lot of issues and emotions to handle in the midst of a ruthless war with high stakes for the future of Panem. Not to mention the confusion caused by the love triangle and her choice between Gale and Peeta, which luckily has not been dragged out to the extremes, although the franchise could have cut back a bit on this one and let Gale keep a little bit more of his dignity for the long run. While the reader of Collins’ trilogy relies heavily on Katniss’ inner monologues to understand the mind and the struggles of the protagonist as she fights for her beliefs, it is up to Jennifer Lawrence to depict these often contradictory feelings as there is no voice-over to complete her emotional journey. It is needless to say that Lawrence is her usual self as an actress and offers a terrific performance.
As a series in which teenagers have to kill each other off like gladiators in a televised spectacle in order to demonstrate the Capitol’s superiority in the regime of Panem, The Hunger Games has been brutal yet authentic and honest from the start, criticizing certain aspects of society including a critical look upon the media and its voyeurism, the abuse of power, injustice and inequality and with the last two parts the inhumane conduct of war. The sinister and violent tone of the series reaches a new high in Mockingjay - Part 2 with an emphasis on the lack of rules and morals in a war where no beloved character of the franchise is safe. The score composed by James Newton Howard accompanies the dark tone perfectly as it is spot on in creating a horrific tension and stirring emotions due to being bittersweet and hauntingly beautiful at the same time.
Fans of the novels will most likely be satisfied with the final adaptation. Even though there have been minor changes mainly due to the sudden death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, the blockbuster stays true to the book especially in terms of its core elements. Yet, due to a huge cast, some of the supporting characters fall short but the finale makes up for it by giving each character memorable scenes, including refreshing interactions of Johanna (Jena Malone) and Katniss or a bittersweet Effie (Elizabeth Banks) moment towards the end for example. With Mockingjay - Part 2 wrapping up the Hunger Games franchise, Katniss’ journey comes to an end and while her character is taking her well-deserved rest, we should hope that there will be more strong female characters, especially in blockbusters, coming our way.
While the first part of the finale, Mockingjay - Part 1, was rather character-driven and focused on the inner struggles and the post-traumatic stress disorder of Katniss and left the action and thrilling suspense dangling somewhere in the background, the second part lives up to its promised expectations and delivers an action-packed final showdown.