The Hunger Games: MockingJay – Part 2 Review: Game Over

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The Hunger Games series has always had a lot more on its mind than your typical YA fare. That was almost entirely the focus of last year’s modest entry Mockingjay – Part 1. Now, for the finale, it’s time to string the action of the excellent first two films with the less subtle ideologies of its predecessor.

If you can get through the slog that is the first 45 minutes, Part 2 suddenly gets the saga’s spark back with a few strong character beats laced into one of the series’ signature game-style set pieces. That’s the formula that made Catching Fire the best of the franchise, and it only builds from there. This is ultimately a war film, but where it gets fascinating is Katniss’ (Jennifer Lawrence) place in that war.

With President Coin (Julianne Moore) using her as a symbol to rally citizens to the rebel cause, Katniss fights more for the camera than the cause. Our hero, obviously, has other ideas.

Accompanied by only her closest allies on a solo mission to the Capital, Katniss’ personal vendetta is eventually lost in the fog of war. Much to my surprise, having not read the novels, Mockingjay – Part 2 is actually completely unpredictable. What started out as a simple dystopian premise in the first film evolves into a meditation on the perils of war and even revolution. This is hardly a neat and tidy conclusion to Katniss’ story, but it is a brave one when you consider its target audience. The ending is rewarding in all the ways it isn’t black and white.

Of course, the film still finds ways to pander to who the studio thinks is enjoying it most. The love triangle throughout the series between Katniss, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is injected into many of the film’s most intense scenes. It’s awkward to have the film discussing its larger themes with its audience to only suddenly pause every 20 minutes or so to ask, “so which one do you think she’s going to pick?” The resolution to Katniss’ love life is certainly satisfying, but the journey was painfully out of tune with the rest of the film.

In many ways, Mockingjay – Part 2 resembles the best and worst of the franchise. The first 45 minutes of this entry is the worst chunk of any of the four, simply because it retreads over the unexceptional previous film. But as it builds, it reaches the heights of Catching Fire and then exceeds them. Overall, this isn’t the best Hunger Games movie. But it has a number of the best moments. It also begs a four film marathon to watch the seeds planted for its surprising ending throughout the entire saga. As all great finales do, it enriches the whole journey and makes you want to revisit. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty


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