Mark Reviews Movies

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2


2 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Francis Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, Mahershala Ali, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Clafin, Woody Harrelson, Natalie Dormer, Elden Henson, Wes Chatham, Evan Ross, Jena Malone, Michelle Forbes, Willow Shields, Elizabeth Banks, Patina Miller, Jeffrey Wright, Paula Malcomson, Stanley Tucci

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic material)

Running Time: 2:17

Release Date: 11/20/15

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Review by Mark Dujsik | November 19, 2015

The battle for the fate of Panem is fought in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, and in the finale's cleverest move, the war looks oddly like the games that helped to spur the rebellion in the first place. The Capitol's news broadcasts recapping the day's victories and death toll feature the same music as and similar graphics to the daily reports on the annual Hunger Games, in which poor and oppressed citizens of the outlying districts would fight to death for the entertainment of the wealthy and powerful of the Capitol. The dangers here aren't soldiers, either. They're booby traps, just like the ones in the games, set around the city and surrounded by cameras that will allow the public to see every death.

This sort of obvious, if inexact, allegory is exactly what we've come to expect from this series. Just like the allegorical touches of the previous movies, this last entry introduces its most potentially potent concepts without following through on them in any significant way. If war, as the movie suggests, is akin to a game, then what does that mean for these characters and this story of revolution? What does the movie actually have to say about that idea?

As it turns out, it doesn't mean much in a specific way to these characters and this story, and the movie doesn't have anything to say about it beyond simply bringing up the comparison. Again, it is clever, but the screenplay by Peter Craig and Danny Strong (based on the second half of the last book in Suzanne Collins' trilogy) stops short of any kind of insight. After all, this story still has a war that must be fought, a half-hearted love triangle to resolve, some significant deaths to endure, and a big, completely expected twist at which to arrive.

The story picks up immediately where the previous movie ended, with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) surviving an attack from her friend/lover/ally/fiancé/something, the newly rescued Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). He was tortured and implanted with false memories by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in order to get at Katniss. Gale (Liam Hemsworth), her oldest friend, still hopes that she'll choose him after all of this is done.

The districts of Panem are still fighting the Capitol, and Katniss once again wants to get in on the action. President Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman's final performance) believe she's still a better figurehead than a fighter, although a confrontation with a Capitol loyalist, who puts a gun to her head and asks why he shouldn't pull the trigger, suggests that she has had enough of both roles. That's especially true when she figures out she's fighting for and serving as the public face of a revolution that has no moral qualms in potentially killing hundreds of civilians in order to cut off access to a fortressed arsenal of strategic importance to the Capitol.

That uncertainty, of course, is where this series has been headed since it first introduced the rebellion, and it's nice that this entry finally, directly addresses what we've been suspecting all the while. Naturally, the movie puts it off to the side in order to get back to comparatively easier stuff.

Here, that would be the storming of the Capitol. That thread takes up a good portion of the story, as Katniss and her squad stay behind and, after taking to underground tunnels, below the actual fighting. Once again, she's there to serve as a propaganda figure to rally the troops, although she is intent on finding a way to kill Snow.

There are some fine setpieces here, including an ambush by a series of traps that culminates in a flood of oil and the buildup to a fight against lizard-like creatures that have been unleashed in the tunnels. Director Francis Lawrence, who continues the dark and washed-out aesthetic of the previous half of the movie (It's even more pronounced here, especially in the beginning, with certain scenes taking place in almost complete darkness), builds a significant amount of tension in that latter scene, as he keeps suggesting the appearance of the creatures without meeting those expectations until we're half-convinced they won't appear.

Complementing the look, this might be the morally murkiest entry in the series. In addition to the earlier scene involving the fortress, the movie presents the heretofore obvious villains of the series—Snow and the Capitol's blood-spectacle-hungry population—in far more ambiguous light. As the battle in the Capitol rages, the citizens become refugees in the city limits of their own homes, and the rebels have no problem taking on the city's soldiers in the middle of this mass of the displaced. Snow, of course, remains an evil dastard, but in light of the cynical irony of the movie's chief revelation, he almost sounds rational. It's a sociopathic rationality, yes, but here we are, seeing the old boss after meeting the new one. You already know the old saying.

The movie's thematic concerns are back-heavy. Everything The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 wants to say comes fast and heavy-handed as the plot reaches its conclusion. It has a lot to disseminate, too, which makes everything building up to it—in this installment and its predecessor—feel like half measures.

Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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