Film Review: “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay–Part 2 (2015)

You know, I have to admit to a fair amount of skepticism (I might even go so far as to say cynicism) about the recent Hollywood trend of taking the final volume of a book series and splitting it into two films.  While that has been a decidedly mixed blessing for The Hunger Games, the final film, Mockingjay–Part 2 manages to bring this sprawling YA epic film series to a stirring, and mostly satisfactory, conclusion.

The film picks up where the previous film left off, with Katniss recovering from Peeta’s failed attack on her life.  Deciding that she will finally take it into her own hands to assassinate Snow, Katniss goes with her elite team into the Capitol itself.  After Prim is killed in one of the last Rebellion-led bombings on the Capitol, Katniss agrees to be Snow’s executioner, only to assassinate the newly-declared President Coin, who was responsible for the death of her sister and has already shown that she will become just as cold and heartless as Snow.  Having accomplished her goal and set the stage for free elections in Panem, she retires to a life of domestic harmony with Peeta.

Of course, Jennifer Lawrence continues to be the highlight of the film.  As some reviewers have noted, she does seem to have outgrown this role a little bit, but she still fits quite easily into the action-heroine persona that helped to vault her into the realm of Hollywood super-stardom.  She quite ably portrays the deep emotional conflicts that Katniss must confront as she realizes and contends with the consequences of going to war against a brutal dictatorship.  She realizes, when it’s almost too late, that in war, and in politics, it is all too easy to become the very thing that you are fighting against.

As strong as Lawrence is, however, she is matched by both Sutherland and Moore.  Sutherland seems to take enormous delight in bringing the deliciously evil President Snow to life, savoring each line and and delivering in a voice that is disturbingly calm and reflective.  Say what you will about President Snow, he is a man who knows both himself and Katniss phenomenally well, and it is this particular form of self-possession that makes him such a compellingly dangerous enemy.  For her part, Moore manages to combine a certain icy stoicism with a political acumen that makes it all to clear that she is willing to do whatever it takes to obtain the power that she feels she can wield better than her predecessor Snow.  Due to Moore’s icy self-possession, we are left in no doubt that Coin will be just as despotic, and just as methodical, in her ability to kill for political reasons.

I did have a few small gripes with the film, mostly on the way in which it skates over some significant character development that would have helped it make more sense.  The rift that ultimately develops between Gale and Katniss is sketched out in the barest of terms, leaving much to the viewer’s interpretation (this might be a flaw of the translation from page to screen).  Still, one would think that with two films to work with, the writers could have found a way to make these gaps in characterization and plot logic a little less glaring.

If there is one significant complaint I have, it would be the coda, which shows Katniss and Peeta in wedded bliss, drenched in soft colour.  Katniss has gone from kick-ass action heroine to thoroughly domesticated housewife (with paisley dress included!)  Now, I realize that this is at least somewhat faithful to the novel, but still, it is so saccharine and trite that it undercuts the the sense of hope-tinged bleakness that has made these films so compelling.  It feels, to me at least, as if a studio boss somewhere decreed that the film was too depressing and needed a traditional Hollywood romantic ending to minimize the risk of alienating potential viewers.  It was easily the most frustrating moment in the entire series, a rather unfortunate circumstance given that it is also the scene that sees it to its conclusion.

All in all, however, this last installment of The Hunger Games franchise is a compelling and entertaining film, with a few reflections and political comments thrown in for spice.  Is it the most thoughtful and philosophically complex blockbuster film?  No, it isn’t, but then, it doesn’t really have to be.  Taken at face value, it is definitely worth seeing, and in this day and age that is no small accomplishment.

Score:  7.5/10

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