Review: ‘Mockingjay 2’ makes for a rousing finale
Explosive, mostly true to the text, complex and chock full of action, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” should more than satisfy the franchise’s many fans.
That said, if someone unfamiliar with the previous films, or the Suzanne Collins novels on which they’re based, were to walk in on the film, it would likely seem a mystifying cacophony of startling images rumbling off a cliff. “Mockingjay 2” offers little in the way of backstory or explanation; you’re already on this train or you’re left behind.
Happily, millions aplenty are familiar and even obsessed with “The Hunger Games” story of revolution, personal tragedy and duplicity in the post-apocalyptic world of Panem. And “Mockingjay 2” puts their conflicted heroine, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), through all the physical, internal and romantic turmoil her fans expect.
The film begins right where “Mockingjay 1” left off (and again, for newbies this will likely make no sense at all). Katniss is recovering from an attack by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), her onetime love interest and ally, who has been brainwashed by evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in the Capitol and sent back to rebel headquarters to kill her.
As the symbolic Mockingjay, Katniss needs to appear to be leading the rebels into battle against Snow. All the bow-wielding Katniss actually wants to do is kill the president. After a bit of bringing all those outside the Capitol together, and against the explicit orders of icy rebel leader Alma Coin (a spectacularly Gray Julianne Moore), Katniss decides to navigate her way through the dangerous Capitol streets to Snow’s mansion, where she can kill him.
Only problem is, those streets are rigged with all sorts of deadly traps, from mega-guns to man-made monsters to shifting sidewalks. But Katniss and a band of merry men and women — including boyfriend option #2 Gale (Liam Hemsworth), old ally Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and videographer Cressida (Natalie Dormer) — accept the challenge. Crazy Peeta even joins the charge somehow, just to keep things interesting.
And things do get interesting, in a howling death sort of way. Those who were appalled at the initial premise of “The Hunger Games” — forcing adolescents to fight to the death — may faint at the audacity of this film’s penultimate climax. And, in the end, Katniss needs to decide where real evil lies.
Most of the ancillary characters the franchise has introduced over four films still make appearances — Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), and Katniss’s sister, Prim (Willow Shields), as well as Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s gamemaster (even though Hoffman died during filming).
But the focus is overwhelmingly on Katniss in this outing (that focus wavered in “Mockingjay 1”), which is as it should be, and it’s to Jennifer Lawrence’s immense credit that she brings the same high game to a fantasy franchise that she brings to awards fare. She can run about in super-hero mode then suddenly drop down five notches or strip herself bare emotionally. She has been the best possible Katniss.
And Katniss has obviously resonated with viewers and readers. An emotionally confused innocent from a humble background forced into the political world, where treachery is a key part of the game and oppression is the accepted, but resented, norm. And yet hope still somehow survives. Every world could use a Mockingjay.
‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2’
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic material
Running time: 137 minutes