8 out of 10
The Hunger Games Cast:
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
Directed by Francis Lawrence
After being attacked by a brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katnis Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is ready to take the war back to President Snow (Donald Sutherland). She and the elite group Squad 451, mostly made up of former Hunger Games victors and a video team commissioned to capture the Mockingjay’s every move, head first to District 2 and then the Capitol itself for one last fight to take down Snow and his tyrannical reign.
At this point, it’s no longer important to consider whether The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is a good or bad movie, as much as how well it stands up to the previous installments and whether fans of Suzanne Collins’ books will be happy with how things end. Granted, Collins’ third book in the series, “Mockingjay,” is arguably not as good as the previous two, which may be why The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 faltered so badly, merely setting things up for a conclusion that has to work even harder to deliver.
While Collins didn’t write the screenplay, she is credited for the “adaptation” and in some ways, it feels like she was inspired by what’s been done by the filmmakers and actors in previous movies to allow herself a “do-over” in terms of how to pull things together. Where “Mockingjay” diverges from Collins’ book is usually when it comes to the dialogue and the interactions between characters where some relationships are given more weight with key moments. While the focus is once again very much on Jennifer Lawrence’s Katnis Everdeen, she doesn’t overshadow her supporting cast as much as in previous movies, making this feel much more like a bonafide ensemble piece.
First, we see the repercussions from the previous chapter’s cliffhanger ending with Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss recovering from Peeta’s attack and him in the care of the doctors of District 13 as he fights against his programming. District 13’s President Coin (Julianne Moore) is anxious to take the fight to President Snow in the Capitol and Katniss, the “Mockingjay,” once again plays the role of figurehead as she urges the troops on, while questioning some of the tactics being used. Their first stop is District 2, which still supports Snow, as the rebels bomb their mountain base and Katniss has a stand-off with one of the survivors.
The story is no longer about whether the doe-eyed Katniss will choose Peeta or Gale, because with the war waging, she’s having trouble trusting either of them, so it’s more about deciding what’s the best decision for herself to make in her role as the Mockingjay. Because so much of the film is about war, it has the potential to be rather grim and dour because there just isn’t a good place to add any degree of levity.
After three previous films, everyone involved has gotten so good at making these movies, especially the three main actors who have matured and improved their craft while doing so. This is especially the case with Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, who have some of their best dramatic moments in this film as they try to figure out where they’re at in terms of their complex relationship. Peeta has been transformed into far more of an unknown quantity after his programming, which makes his presence on the invasion on the Capitol even more of an intriguing X-factor.
Liam Hemsworth’s Gale does have more to do in this film than in previous ones, although it’s still hard to see him offering much beyond being a hunky object of distraction for Katniss. And yes, we do finally get a much-needed moment between him and Peeta. It’s just really fascinating to see how this triangle has evolved and changed and if nothing else, that alone might end up being this series’ greatest takeaway.
Just like his cast, director Francis Lawrence has gotten so good at directing these movies, and it’s an impressive feat to have cranked out three of them in as many years, delivering a finale that really drives home the themes that have been building throughout.
As much as the dialogue moments are important to see how these characters and their relationships have changed emotionally with the advent of war, the amount of exposition drags the movie down in a similar way as it did in the last installment even as it helps to raise the emotional stakes. If you know what happens to some of the characters from reading the books, the way Lawrence foreshadows things is quite effective and the slower drama moments are counter-balanced by equally effective and exciting action sequences
The film doesn’t disappoint when it comes to building tension as the group heads into Panem’s Capitol, which has been riddled with booby traps. Finnick puts it best when he says “Welcome to the 76th Hunger Games” and those who were disappointed by the lack of the title games in the previous movie should be thrilled by the amazing setpieces, as well as the suspense created as the group goes through the tunnels below the Capitol facing hurdles at every corner.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 ends up being an incredibly emotional film for many reasons, none more so than watching scenes between Moore and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, two actors who set a high bar for the rest of the cast, who in turn more than live up to that challenge. (They find ways to make up for Hoffman’s absence due to his death while filming, but it just drives home what a great loss his death was.)
As far as the supporting characters, Jena Malone’s Johanna Mason also has more of a presence in this film with some nice moments to goad Katniss and Coin—she’s still one of my favorites in terms of how her character has been translated from the book as little more than an instigator. Some characters like Sam Caflin’s Finnick Odair are given a far more satisfying arc here than others, although it’s surprising which characters are given hero moments, such as the mute cameraman Pollux who plays a larger role in their mission through the Capitol.
Ultimately, the film delivers a far more satisfying conclusion than the books did, although just as it finds the absolutely perfect place to end, it tacks on one of those epilogues that always seems to plague these finales. It’s perfectly fine and fans will love it, but it just confirms that the filmmakers were having as much of a hard time saying “goodbye” (or “The End”) as the rest of us.
The Bottom Line:
More than making up for its disappointing predecessor, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is an incredibly emotional film on many levels and a more than worthy conclusion to the series, mainly because it doesn’t shy away from finding ways to improve upon the original book.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 opens worldwide starting on November 18. It will open in North America on Friday, November 20 with previews on Thursday night.[Gallery not found]