The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Directed By: Francis Lawrence

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland

We're just two weeks out from having witnessed what may have been Daniel Craig's final outing as 007 in Spectre, and now we are witnessing Jennifer Lawrence's final outing as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.  If Craig's reincarnation of the beloved British spy is emblematic of this era in blockbuster cinema, Lawrence's breakout turn as Panem's Mockingjay is just as synonymous with the era.  As we arrive at the conclusion of The Hunger Games franchise, it's become crystal clear that the quadrilogy adaptation of Suzanne Collins's novels has cemented its place in blockbuster cinema.  Katniss is no 007 in the grand scheme of things, but the Girl on Fire does leave big shoes to fill on the big screen.

After Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) tries to strangle her to death, an ailing Katniss (Lawrence) finds herself in the medical unit on the mend.  After getting her voice back, the Mockingjay makes it clear to President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and her right hand adviser Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) that she is tired of fighting the good fight from District 13 and ready to fight it in the Capitol.  She's enraged by what the Capitol has done to Peeta and is ready to take down President Snow (Donald Sutherland).  Coin reluctantly agrees to send Katniss to District 2 along with her close friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and fellow rebel Boggs (Mahershala Ali).  Her task is to motivate the loyalists and incite them to take down a vital military command center in the process.  

Katniss fulfills her duties to the rebels but gets shot in the process.  On the mend in District 13 again, Katniss wants nothing more than to kill Snow.  While Coin and Plutarch would prefer the Girl on Fire to continue filming promos from their base, Katniss is determined to get in the trenches. After their success in District 2, the rebels are preparing to march on the Capitol.  Expecting nothing less, Snow turns to his game makers to rig the city with death traps.  With the help of Johanna (Jena Malone), Katniss sneaks off alone to the Capitol into this fray, but it's impossible for her to go unnoticed.  With the help of Gale, Boggs, Finnick (Sam Claflin), Cressida (Natalie Dormer), and a damaged Peeta, the Mockingjay undertakes the ultimate mission.  With the soul of Panem at stake, the 76th Hunger Games commences.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
is a movie that never should have happened.  The final installment should have just been The Hunger Games: Mockingjay.  Thanks to Lionsgate's greed, however, this is not the case.  Setting aside my issues with this crystal clear cash grab, Mockingjay – Part 2 is a grim, thrilling conclusion to the tumultuous tale of Katniss Everdeen.  As always, the production value is top notch.  Unlike its immediate predecessor, the film's action is nonstop.  Despite the rebellion and the war raging, the narrative is still very personal and laser-focused on Katniss.  All in all, Francis Lawrence wraps The Hunger Games quadrilogy up with a nice big red bow.

The one thing I've always respected about The Hunger Games franchise is its willingness to put politics at center stage in a big budget blockbuster.  In previous installments, it's been done under the pretext of a public relations war, and that's still here in this final outing.  As the conflict between our Mockingjay and President Snow reaches its climax, however, I can't help but think about what's happening in the real world.  The civilized people of Panem are threatened by someone trying to destroy their way of life.  In a similar way, ISIS/ISIL is threatening western civilization and our way of life.  Some might say that it's rather harsh to compare the rebels in the districts to sadistic terrorists, but those of you who have seen the movies or read the books may certainly agree with me to some extent.  That being said, I don’t think I’ll have as much trouble getting you to see the similarities between the Capitol and our government.  Moreover, real life political parallels loom large in this dark, action-packed finale.

As much as I enjoyed the film, it's far from perfect.  In spite of having two films to flesh out the tale of Collins’s last novel, Lawrence's final act still feels choppy and as if parts are missing.  That’s something that absolutely should not be happening under the circumstances.  On top of this, hindsight suggests that a certain character should have been developed more over the course of these two films.  I understand Philip Seymour Hoffman’s passing complicated matters, but a little more should have been done to address the situation than simply rewrite the climax of the film.  Some groundwork should have been done as well to add the right amount of emotional heft to what should be one of the grandest scenes in the series.

The cast, as usual, is firing on all cylinders.  Continuing to own the role of Katniss Everdeen, Jennifer Lawrence gives us one enraged woman.  As the Girl on Fire, Lawrence once again proves that she is more than just a capable action star.  The Oscar winner brings gravitas befitting a more artistic cinematic endeavor to this grand film, which really helps to elevate the material.  Lawrence may not be the most interesting cast member this time around, however. That honor goes to Josh Hutcherson in his final turn as the crafty Peeta Mellark.  Emotionally damaged goods courtesy of Snow, there’s an air of mystery to Hutcherson’s performance as he must navigate what’s real and what’s not real to determine whether he should love or hate the person with whom he’s been through it all.  To complete the love triangle, we have Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne.  A noble loser in the grand scheme of things, his character continues to loyally support Katniss.  Not as selfless as in past installments, Hemsworth’s Gale does have a bit more conflict with Miss Everdeen this time around on how far one should go to take down the Capitol. 

Make no mistake that the veteran actors contribute a great deal to the film as well.  Donald Sutherland continues to deliver a rich, delicious performance as President Snow right down to the end.  I could really watch him do his thing as the slippery, surreptitious politician all day long.  In her second turn as President Alma Coin, Julianne Moore continues to give a stalwart performance.  Like any good politician, she doesn’t reveal all her qualities until the moment calls for it.  Finally, we have Philip Seymour Hoffman in his final film performance.  Unlike Paul Walker’s final performance in Furious 7 earlier this year, Lionsgate chose to leave Hoffman’s performance somewhat incomplete.  Given the caliber of an actor the late Hoffman was, this was the right choice.  The moments we do have with him on screen were treasured ones as he continues to deliver a calculating performance as Plutarch Heavensbee.  It’s just one last reminder that he will be missed on the big screen.

The end of The Hunger Games franchise is surprisingly personal to me.  Since STMR’s inception, this is the first franchise for which I’ve written reviews for each and every installment during their respective theatrical runs.  I certainly felt nostalgia as the epic score from James Newton Howard brought us to the end, and I will miss the arena (with our original cast).  Toast a glass of champagne to this one.  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 gets a strong 0.06% rating.  May the odds be ever in your favor.