Movie review: The Mockingjay’s ‘Hunger Games’ swan song
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY, PART 2
* * *1/2 (A-)
• Directed by Francis Lawrence
• Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks
• Rated PG-13, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, 136 minutes
Many multi-book and film series start strongly, only to end as weak echoes of their genesis. Such is not the case for the “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2.”
Adapted from the second half of the third novel in Suzanne Collins Young Adult trilogy, “Mockingjay, Part 2,” the series follows its heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) from her awkward teens, into a more mature young adult.
In this final chapter, several years have passed since Katniss volunteered to replace her little sister in the first of several Hunger Games she would ultimately play.
These Games are a barbaric celebration — an ultimate version of “survivor,” orchestrated by the Capitol, requiring kids and teens to kill one another for Panem’s amusement and for the special privileges granted to the winning district.
As a champion of the games, Katniss struggles to decide what would be best for the collected districts of Panem, and how she might bring about such change. This endeavor requires even more self-sacrifice than the many sacrifices she has made thus far.
As the film begins, we pick up where we left off in “Mockingjay, Part 1.” Katniss recovers from her injuries and returns as a warrior for the revolution — all under the direction of rebel President Coin (Julianne Moore).
The rebel goal is to bring down The Capitol, a den of wealth and privilege created and sustained by depriving other districts of basic necessities. Having identified Panem’s President Snow (Donald Sutherland), as the nefarious force withholding his people’s freedom to thrive, Katniss is determined that she herself must kill him.
Meanwhile, self-appointed rebel President Coin (Julianne Moore), covets power. Katniss, hailing from the harsh conditions presented by outcast district 12, is increasingly concerned about Coin’s efforts to bring down The Capitol without regard for collateral civilian deaths.
Coin assigns Katniss, along with the heroine’s two love interests, to a propaganda unit intended to be “the faces of the revolution.” The men in her life are both lads from district 12, Peeta and Gale (played respectively by Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth).
They are attractive bookends providing soft places she might fall. However, Katniss will not be deterred from her vision and while she may occasionally lean on the shoulder of one or the other young man, it is she who provides motivation and strength. She will fall into no arms before achieving her purpose.
As her unit pushes into The Capitol they film their victories against Snow’s game pods. Katniss is warned by superiors that she is equally useful and less threatening to Coin, if she were to be killed in battle.
Having been forewarned, Katniss and her cohorts are soon attacked (in a variety of creative ways) by game pods designed by Snow’s game makers.
The pods release creatures and deathtraps that effectively stand in as an extension of this episode’s absent Hunger Games — to provide excitement and sense of urgency to this installment.
Directed by Francis Lawrence, the film draws us in by keeping close tabs on Katniss’s emotional landscape, examining the risks required when she places her unshakeable values before all other considerations.
Jennifer Lawrence, a gifted actress whom I originally believed to be both too old and too soft to play Katniss, has grown into a role that in return, has grown into her. Here, she and her character merge for a perfect fit. All’s well that ends well.