Children fought within the Games,
As posh patricians praised their names,
And through the safety of TV,
Let death abound for all to see.
Now death has bounded through the screen,
And at the urging of a teen,
The poor plebeians meant to lack
Have gained the courage to fight back.
When tyrannies use violent means
And worship death on TV screens,
It then should come as no surprise
In violence do the people rise.
For freedom, violence intervenes,
For can mankind learn otherwise?
MPAA rating: PG-13
After watching the final Hunger Games film and contemplating whether I liked it or Catching Fire best, I’ve come to the conclusion that Mockingjay – Part 2 is the best installment of the series. The final chapter of any franchise is typically meant to be the grandest and most important, a rare but desirable feat that is indeed met by this last portion of Katniss Everdeen’s story.
Though I’m one of the few people not to have read the books, I’m well aware that Mockingjay is the least favored of Suzanne Collins’s trilogy, and some reviews for Mockingjay’s two film adaptations have been similarly blasé, since they say the book is better and its predecessors are better still. Yet Part 2 delivers on the setup of Part 1, trading in the previous film’s relative lack of thrills for the fast-paced intensity of the Maze Runner series.
I’ll try to be general to avoid spoilers: Katniss (ever-outstanding Jennifer Lawrence) and President Coin’s rebels aim for President Snow and the Capitol, even as the archer struggles with her split affections and Peeta’s recent brainwashing. Considering how Part 1 used Peeta’s sudden indoctrination as its climax, I was glad that it wasn’t swept away as a minor setback; instead, it becomes an ongoing risk, as well as a satisfying method of ironing out the reality among all the lies. The actual mission grows in importance as they continue, and the Hunger Games-style dangers encountered make Mockingjay – Part 2 the most intense film of the franchise, with one sequence that seemed fit for a horror movie.
Considering everything that has come before, it should be no surprise that there are many deaths along the characters’ difficult journey, and I suspect this is part of what many fans disliked. Killing off characters is most painful when it seems unfair, and such displeasing deaths can cause fans to be angrier at the storyteller than the characters responsible. (A recent example I disliked was in How to Train Your Dragon 2). Mockingjay – Part 2 has twists that aren’t exactly what fans would want or expect, but the story makes the best of them and ends up sadder but wiser, yet still fulfilling.
While the biggest complaint about Mockingjay is how it has been split into two parts for the sake of money, Part 2 actually served to vindicate that decision for me on the narrative level, at least somewhat. One hope I had for the Hobbit trilogy was that, by stretching the dwarves’ screen time, their characters would grow more familiar and not just be thirteen interchangeable companions. While Jackson failed in that regard, I felt Mockingjay succeeds. With so many new characters introduced between Parts 1 and 2, it made sense to establish some earlier on to distinguish them from the redshirts who don’t have enough screen time to leave an impression. (To use a Marvel comparison, whose death had more impact, that of Coulson, who was seen in multiple films, or that of Quicksilver, who had one?) While the decision did Part 1 no favors, it works to Part 2’s advantage.
As the capstone of The Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay – Part 2 is both an exciting blockbuster and a dark climax for a dark series. While some elements may not satisfy, such as the resolution to the whole love-triangle friction, the majority do. The expansive cast perhaps aren’t fully utilized, but plot progression is more important than characterization at this point, since we’ve already gotten to know the important players over three films. (I was glad that Philip Seymour Hoffman’s role as Plutarch Heavensbee wasn’t much affected by his death earlier this year; his absence was only felt in one scene and was well sidestepped.) Most importantly, amid the chaotic action and sci-fi spectacle, the film reaffirms the franchise’s ultimate message. As Katniss has grown from fighting for survival to fighting for freedom or revenge, the struggle has not simply been against monosyllabic presidents but against anyone with contempt for life. It’s a theme still very much relevant today and one I hope will be ever in our favor.
Best line: (Katniss) “There are much worse games to play.”
Rank: List-Worthy (joining the other three in the series)
© 2015 S. G. Liput
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