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Review: Francis Lawrence’s ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2’

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As the four-year series breathes its last, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 finds solace in the little things and celebrates an intensified version of everything that made the saga great. While the trilogy (and a cinematic quadrilogy) has always been a political animal, the finale adeptly encapsulates the values that predecessors merely gestured towards. A triumphant end for a series often mocked by critics for its narrative simplicity and “Young Adult” classification, Mockingjay – Part 2 is the finale that fans deserve.

Recovering from yet another near death experience — this time at the hands of her brainwashed teammate/love interest/friend/partner-in-propaganda Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) — Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) struggles to deal with the Capital’s torture and conditioning of someone she knows to be a good person. Another in the mounting list of President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) horrifying crimes, the tainting of Peeta arouses Katniss’ warrior instinct and sets about The Capital’s ultimate destruction. Mockingjay – Part 2 picks up many of the narrative threads woven by the previous entry (as one would expect from a novel split into two films) without ever elongating plot lines or inserting superfluous detail. Although it could never succeed as a stand-alone effort, Francis Lawrence’s film feels thorough enough to enthrall audiences with varying levels of familiarity while providing a crowd-pleasing conclusion full of nail-biting action.

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The Hunger Games saga doesn’t have a reputation for naturalistic dialogue or captivating artistry, so it comes as no surprise that Mockingjay – Part 2 contains many of the same flaws as the other films. Like any other action hero, Katniss only survives because of her importance to the narrative, and her ability to narrowly avoid death has become an increasingly tiresome ploy. (This series may have broken records for “number of times the main character wakes up in the hospital.”) But fans don’t flock to Everdeen because of her otherworldly ability to escape death or to speak so expositionally about the developing plot, they come to her (much like her fictional followers) because she is a beacon of hope. One of the exceedingly-few female action heroes, Lawrence’s Katniss spoke to a generation of youth struggling to comprehend a system that seems so unfair. Panem may be a dystopian future, but its segregated dynamics and broken political system feel frighteningly familiar. The unwilling spearhead of a movement to bring down government-sanctioned atrocities, Everdeen’s unwavering voice demands to be heard, and to a marginalized viewer/reader, there is nothing of higher value.

More than an escape into a world of fantasy and adventure, Mockingjay – Part 2 solidifies Katniss Everdeen’s status as a heroic icon. To an industry dominated by male figures, the ability of a female-driven film to generate such massive sums of money offers a step in the right direction. Mockingjay – Part 2 features a bevy of women in powerful roles, and without much ado. The film regards these women with such a sense of normalcy that it is almost startling, and, in turn, highlights all that is still left to accomplish in terms of gender equality. After the film let out, I stood amongst a crowd of elementary school boys gathered around the bathrooms, and their excitement towards the film hinted at a side of The Hunger Games that I had never considered: the heroic Katniss Everdeen will define much of their childhood. Like the Stallone, Schwarzenegger or Willis films of the 2010s, these dystopian actioners are providing role models that an impressionable generation of youngsters will carry into their adult lives.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 may not be remembered for its quality as a film, or even its promotion of the female-centric narrative, but the highly-engaging conclusion delivers on the promise of Suzanne Collins’ novels. A bit of an overinflated blockbuster romp, judging the final chapter with a harsh objectivity would simply do a disservice to everything that the film gets right.

As an aside, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 marks the last cinematic appearance of the great Philip Seymour Hoffman. Nearly two years after his death, seeing Hoffman light up the big screen yet again was an incredible treat, and a reminder of just how amazing he was at his craft.

Jordan Brooks (@viewtoaqueue) is an increasingly-snobby cinefile based out of London, England. As a contributor to several online publications, including his own blog, he has succeeded in fulfilling his life long dream of imposing strong opinions on others.

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