“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 2” Movie Review


     Finishing off a film trilogy can be tricky business.  The likely reason we have arrived at a third film is because of the success of the first film.  We’ve seen trilogies that have properly traversed a satisfying story arc without losing momentum between chapters and we have watched as others have fizzled.  Perhaps one of the most notable examples of a solid threesome of films was “The Lord of the Rings”, whose third entry went on to win Best Picture in 2003.  Conversely,  “The Matrix” trilogy stormed out of the gate with its 1999 opening chapter only to severely underwhelm by the time we arrived to the third and final film where the series had clearly run out of steam creatively.  Fortunately for fans of the massively popular young adult book series by Suzanne Collins and the resulting feature film franchise, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2” provides a thrilling and satisfying conclusion to a set of films that has seen glorious highs courtesy of the first entry and undeniable lows with the last film, “Mockingjay-Part 1”.  I was never happy with the fact “Mockingjay” was split into two films in the first place, a decision that smelled of an obvious cash grab.  And “Part 1” was a strong indication of this with its failure to connect beyond the established fan base,  a fact that will become obvious after viewing “Part 2”.  

     I doubt director Francis Lawrence had any real say in the decision to split “Mockingjay” into two films, but in doing so he and screenwriters Peter Craig and Danny Strong clearly saved the best for last.  Picking up right where “Part 1” left off, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is still suffering from the effects of his capture and torture at the hands of the nefarious President Snow (Donald Sutherland).  Also healing from the rescue mission is Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) who, despite her weakened state remains a God like figure to the people uprising against the Capital throughout Panem.  Just her mere appearance in carefully produced programming inspires both the millions of rebels fighting under President Coin (Julianne Moore), as well as those who fight for President Snow at the Capital.  The presence of Katniss has propelled an all out war against Snow, as the rebels continue to advance, despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their way.

     In a bit of interesting plotting that allows nearly all of the younger more marketable characters to be front and center at the most important points of the film, Coin sends Katniss, Peeta, and Gale (Liam Hemsworth), along with other series favorites such as Cressida (Natalie Dormer) and Finnick (Sam Claflin) on a mission in which they will stay behind the main body of the rebel force and film “propos” or videos that will show Katniss defeating the enemy in choreographed battle scenes, a tool used to motivate the troops, as well as the masses supporting the cause against Snow.  Also installed as fodder representing the old school are Boggs (Mahershala Ali) and Jackson (Michelle Forbes), who serve as the obligatory leaders of the group who can’t seem to contain the energy and rebellious nature of the young people who aren’t along just for the ride, an obvious theme throughout the series.  

     As the group progresses into the Capital, Lawrence stages a tour de force action sequence that displays both his ability to create jaw dropping imagery, but also relies on the very same jump scares and thrills he used effectively in “I Am Legend”.  Snow has deployed a number of traps throughout the city designed to take out significant numbers of rebel troops in a variety of ways.  Katniss’ group relies on a device called a “holo” to sniff these traps out and does so with varying degrees of success.  In one sequence, the group sets off twin flame throwing units affixed to two buildings that would certainly have cooked all of them had they not known the trap was located there.  Cressida uses this situation as an opportunity to shoot a “propo’ and has the two cameramen traveling with the group set up for a rousing shot of Katniss firing her bow and arrow into the trap which will be broadcast to the Panem citizens glued to their television sets.  Later, when the group determines the best way to avoid the traps within the city streets is to travel below within the sewer system, they are attacked by a dastardly hoard of zombie like creatures who prove to be more than some of the characters can handle.  The entire sequence echoes similar threats seen in “I Am Legend”, and also utilizes settings that will remind you of something out of “Alien”, “Aliens”, and even “Alien Resurrection” if you can believe that, but there is enough there with the well established characters to maintain a sense of originality.

     Most importantly, Francis Lawrence and his team have brought closure to the many crucial plot threads that have lingered for the entire series and have created the kind of results fans are likely to find satisfying. Jennifer Lawrence remains solid as Katniss.  A believable hero who has successfully played her role as a metaphor against authority and values established by people who only have themselves in mind rather than the greater good.  She remains conflicted on a number of issues throughout the film, but the end game more than justifies everything she has had to endure in previous entries.  

     With the focus falling solely on Katniss and a budding love triangle involving both Peeta and Gale, “Mockingjay-Part 2” never really allows for some of the more popular supporting players to shine.  I would imagine part of this is due to the unexpected passing of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who had not completed all of his scenes as Plutarch Heavensbee for “Part 2”, forcing the filmmakers to rewrite the conclusion and utilize CGI shots which have Plutarch appear in the background of what is Hoffman’s final film appearance.  This issue also effects Woody Harrelson’s Haymitch Abernathy, Elizabeth Banks’ Effie Trinket”, and Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman who all appear in the film, but are not given the kind of moments that made them fan favorites in previous chapters.  That aside, it should be realized Lionsgate has effectively concluded one of the most successful young adult franchises ever made and has succeeded in creating the template many other studios have already followed and will continue to follow.  Also, “The Hunger Games” franchise is where a star was born.  Now free of being tethered to a new “The Hunger Games” film each year, I can only imagine what heights the 25 year old Jennifer Lawrence will aspire to next as she experiences life after Katniss and discovers new groundbreaking roles.  GRADE: B+

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“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1” My Review