‘I’ ON CULTURE
One of the best things about The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 is that it is true to the book series. The series, probably the most popular of the teenage dystopia books and movies, does not gloss over political issues. The first films focused on the horrible death challenges forced on local districts by a corrupt government. Then we began to see both sides in a civil war, and the rebels were not, as might be expected in movies where the heroine is part of the group, really well-led.
Our heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) begins this film recovering from the throttling done by her friend and lover Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who has been brainwashed by the evil plutocrats of the capital city, led by President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Ignoring the orders of President Coin (Julianne Moore), leader of the rebel group, to stay safe and make propaganda movies, she joins rebel soldiers fighting to take the last of the key provinces, District 2. She is shot but, happily, she is wearing a bullet-proof vest.
President Snow pulls his troops back into the capital, which is protected by a huge number of traps, prepared by the charming folks who built the Hunger Games. Katniss goes in with a special platoon to make propaganda videos, but soon pushes toward trying to kill Snow. Most of the film consists of this group facing unbelievable odds, with many of them dying. To make things more fun, brainwashed and violent Peeta is brought along. Gradually, his mind returns to him own, although Katniss has major trust issues with him.
Finally, rebel troops close in on the center of the city. As the citizens move closer to the palace, we hear President Snow calling for the children to be brought closest for their own protection. Then, once that happens, planes drop bombs, killing most of the children. Rebel medics rush to save them, including Katniss’s sister Primrose (Willow Shields), and a second wave of bombs kill them.
Katniss is knocked unconscious but afterward confronts Snow, who tells her that he did not kill the children and the medics: “I have killed a lot of people. I have killed children. But I am not wasteful. This was a brilliant move by Coin.” Katniss confronts childhood friend and now rebel military officer Gale (Liam Hemsworth) who can only tell her he doesn’t know what happened, although his expression makes it clear he actually does know and Katniss would not like the answer.
Finally, there is a confrontation, and in a change from most movies, things happen that are surprising but right. Eventually, we have a “Candide” ending where Katniss returns to her own deserted village to live out her life in peace.
Jennifer Lawrence is terrific, as she has been throughout the series. Her offbeat, adorable looks make her warrior persona vulnerable. The series has provided proof that women can be action stars in their own right. Hutcherson was good as he tried to work through his mental issues, trying to remember what was real and what was not. Sutherland and Moore were strong, as would be expected. I particularly liked Natalie Dormer as warrior-filmmaker Cressida, constantly alternating between shooting monsters and bad guys and trying for good camera shots with Katniss. Jena Malone had only one real scene but was scarily brilliant in it. Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his final role (he died during the filming), was quietly sarcastic and effective throughout.
The filming, including special effects, was fabulous. Going quickly from an open-air amphitheater that filled with water as a trap, going right underground through sewers inhabited by genetic misfits, the action moved quickly through the middle of the film. But there was also time to focus on the corruption of the leaders of both groups. The leaders were corrupt and extraordinarily manipulative. Even rebel leaders can thirst for power. Unfortunately, it did seem a bit padded, allowing some stretches where not much happened, as a way of making up for the fact that the movie covered only about half of one book.
If you have seen the first three films, this movie caps them off and provides a solid ending. Without having seen the films, you might have trouble understanding the issues, which will weaken the experience, but it still will be a good action film.