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Review by Caitlyn Thompson
Produced by Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik
Screenplay by Peter Craig, Danny Strong, Suzanne Collins
Based on Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson,
Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson,
Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore,
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright,
Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci,
Natalie Dormer, Donald Sutherland

As Haymitch put it, “Well Katniss, you don’t disappoint.”

Damn right. Mockingjay – Part 2, the fourth installment of the Hunger Games series is an epically action-packed, heart-wrenching conclusion and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. 

To recap, the Hunger Games “quadtrilogy” has been delivered in an inconsistent manner.

The initial Hunger Games was appropriately modest considering the subject matter—depicting children slaughtering one another in a gentle way is no easy feat. So while it was sugar coated, it wasn’t disappointing.

As for the sequel, Catching Fire, I thought it was awesome. The production designers had an intricate arena to portray and they nailed it, along with the rest of the directorial crew and cast. Spot on. The books were done justice, the actors performed well and again, though cheesy at times, it was a very enjoyable movie.

And then the third film happened…Mockingjay – Part I, a filler to make money and keep fans waiting—a compilation of sappy cliché dialogues with an uncomfortable rigidity amongst the cast. While boring, the landscapes were nicely designed and shot well—that didn’t make up the complete lack of plot. And of course it was. All of the action in the third book was in the second half! I’m still annoyed that they separated these two films.

Ranting aside, I had high hopes for Mockingjay – Part II, and they were most certainly met—the best of the Hunger Games series. Without question.

Now, I’m wondering if it’s because there was so much more action than dialogue, that the film surpassed the others.

Looking back, Catching Fire had a similar quality. Great sets, great action, appropriate violence, and few words. Same formula in Mockingjay – Part II, but with even better sets, make-up, and cinematography, that culminated into a suspenseful journey. And even though I knew what was going to happen (having read the books), I found myself holding my breath many times. A mark of a job well-done I think.

We left off with Katniss in a neck brace, needed after Peeta nearly strangled her to death. She watches him struggle in his bed; restrained and brainwashed by the Capitol to believe she is a deceitful, dangerous horror to all. It’s agonizing for her to see this friend she loves with compassionate confusion. He has been her serenity and now he has been tortured into despising her. The dynamic between the actors throughout the film is intense with a juxtaposing combination of love and trepidation.

So, immediately the story continues, satisfyingly, on the battlefield. The contrived and dull “let’s fight together and be merry” speeches within the depths of District 13 were few, happily, and the story didn’t stall for too much exposition. 

Admittedly, I was worried at first, thankfully only briefly, that the movie would be just as kitschy as its predecessor, but Joanna Mason, played with perfect spite, wit and a sly smile by Jena Malone, came to the rescue and called out the vomit-worthy monologues and phoniness of the “Hope for Panem” typical to the movies thus far—directly to Katniss’s face. It was as though writers Peter Craig and Danny Strong were saying (through Joanna), “it’s not gonna be like last time viewers, we picked up the ball and threw it up really high and caught it and held on really tight—for YOU!” And from that abandonment of child-friendly, trite portrayal of most characters, the story came together quite organically.

Jennifer Lawrence was wonderful, and she played the role of Katniss true to the book—it was hard for me not to compare. In this final chapter the character is accurately portrayed as a sensitive, indecisive young woman who wants the war to be over. She’s done leading, she never wanted the role. Katniss is horribly depressed and her disdain for the depiction of herself as a triumphant hero has simmered into a mix of anger, depression and apathy for life and death. Her survival is ridden with guilt and her suffering won’t ever end, so it’s time to fight—win or die, she is ready, albeit more so for the latter. And Francis Lawrence did the best job in this last installment because he made these elements so potent.

The rest of the cast did a great job as well. Again, as the script was not overdrawn, each character was far more likable, even if they were meant to be hated. Now, of course there were awkward love moments between Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), but those were expected. Hemsworth was actually the odd man out in this film. He’s been the same glowering, handsome, droopy-eyed guy in the background, repeating the same line every time he gets a kiss, “I knew you’d do that.” A-boo-hoo-hoooo. Good thing the actor has a beautiful face.

The other romantic (turned psychotic) lead, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) impressed me with a consistent performance that was actually quite poignant at times. His constant tear-filled eyes and trembling chin felt genuine, and more importantly, accurate to the story.

I have purposefully omitted a summary of this film so as to allow you to judge the story independently. I simply approve.

The Hunger Games is about war. And its catalysts are suffering from PTSD, having been traumatized by relentless loss and torture. It was nice to see that those qualities weren’t glossed over in Mockingjay – Part II. I’ve said before that this series is meant to be an introduction to warfare, without romanticizing the subject, for young adults. People die swiftly and brutally—there’s no time to cue the violins and weep. Enjoy that successful aspect of this production.

Enjoy the plunge into what Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) calls, “the 76th Annual Hunger Games.”

And the odds are in no ones favor.

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