The Hunger Games series has come to a conclusion with its final installment, “Mockingjay, Part 2”, the fiery culmination of an impressive saga. Led by the Oscar-winning Jennifer Lawrence, the tale of Katniss Everdeen, an ordinary girl who finds herself the unwilling face of a rebellion, comes to a satisfying and predominantly organic conclusion.
Katniss has won her first Hunger Games, survived her second and is now a symbol of revolution for the oppressed people of Panem. “Mockingjay, Part 2” opens with offsetting abruptness, picking up inside the rebel’s base after brainwashed ally Peeta attempts to strangle Katniss. Fortunately, the story re-orients itself quickly, throwing the self-determined and emotionally devastated heroine back into the heart of the battle.
Much of the Hunger Games’ popularity stems from its ability to balance all of the elements that attract audiences: suspenseful action scenes, romantic subplots, high stakes and a world that is interesting and immersive. The series’ brilliance comes from the subversion of tropes that usually accompany those elements and the questions it raises about the moral ambiguity of war. “Mockingjay, Part 2” continues to raise these questions, as each side of the fight makes decisions that ask the audience to consider which side is the good side and whether there is a good side at all. The death toll climbs high as Katniss doubts her place in the fight, resulting in a dark and thrilling third act.
“Mockingjay, Part 2” is decidedly more depressing than its already-depressing predecessors, and as a result, the few attempts at comedy crash and burn spectacularly. Scenes that aren’t meant to be funny, like Gale and Peeta’s discussion of Katniss’ feelings and Katniss yelling at the family cat, induce the barest trace of humor because of their sheer absurdity.
The film occasionally builds unnecessary suspense with lingering camera shots and James Newton Howard’s driving score for mundane scenes, such as when Katniss’ squad slushes through city sewers. In later scenes, the score shines for good reasons ― in a Capitol execution punctuated with the sound of a single drum.
However, Jennifer Lawrence’s performance shines. After three movies, Lawrence has a good understanding of Katniss and plays her character with a stiffness that is fragile and breaks when Katniss breaks down, which happens often in “Mockingjay, Part 2.” Katniss is determined, but she is far from sure about anything. Lawrence fluently portrays Katniss’ inner turmoil.
Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta is a charming and a steady foil to the hot and cold heroine, while Liam Hemsworth’s Gale provides a soldierly and dutiful contrast. “Mockingjay, Part 2” sees the graceful conclusion of the series-long love triangle.
The final installment will more than satisfy fans. It follows Suzanne Collin’s original book almost to the letter, despite the fact that Mockingjay is arguably the weakest book in the series. In truth, some parts of the film, like Katniss’ nightmarish fight with mutated creatures underneath the Capitol, reek of comic-book unrealism, undercutting the already-established realism of Panem. Other parts, in which staggering numbers of men, women and children are killed, feel all too real, venturing into territory not often traversed by the young adult genre of books and films.
“Mockingjay, Part 2” is by no means a coherent, self-contained movie. It is the conclusion of a story which spans four episodes and should be viewed as such. The ending may seem drawn-out to viewers who have neglected to watch the film’s predecessors. However, viewers who have rooted for Katniss from her first Hunger Games to “Mockingjay, Part 2” will be rewarded with satisfying and thought-provoking closure.