Jennifer Lawrence once again proves to be the perfect choice for Katniss Everdeen in “Mocking Jay – Part 2”, the fourth and final chapter of ‘The Hunger Games’ saga, based on Suzanne Collins’s best-selling trilogy.
The first thing that should be taken into account is that this is a series you really need to see from the beginning. Just like with ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’, this is not a movie you can walk into without any previous knowledge of the story and characters, without being hopelessly lost, but that’s not a bad thing in my book.
The movie begins almost immediately after the final scene of ‘Part One’. While it makes sense to pick up where the first half left off, it does feel like an odd way to open the movie. That said, I’m not sure they could have structured it any differently. While ‘Part One’ was appropriately all set up and backstory, ‘Part Two’ was the climax and epilogue. Compared to the first two movies though, ‘Mocking Jay’ had a much different feel to it. Instead of having Katniss out in the wilderness, this one is almost entirely set in an urban environment.
However, one thing that really stuck out to me was how good the world building has been throughout this entire franchise. The special effects were so good you didn’t really notice them! The Capitol and all the districts felt like very real, tangible places. Unlike many sci-fi action adventures of a similar caliber, this one really played up how integral propaganda is to war. I love how again and again, Collins manages to show that nothing is black and white, that it’s not always just good versus evil, that real life is full of tough decisions and uncertainty, which I believe is a central theme throughout the books and films.
The first ‘Hunger Games’ was about Katniss surviving the horrible realities of her (post-apocalyptic) world, ‘Catching Fire’ was about the fallout from her defiance of the Capitol, embracing her role as a symbol, and the spark of a revolution. ‘Mocking Jay’ is ultimately about the war that follows. But in retrospect, the entire series is about much more than that, it’s about broken people. By the end of the series, every character that’s left alive is forever changed by their experiences, haunted by their past. As such, the ending appropriately feels like an allegory for veterans coming homing.
Which brings me to Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Peeta is suffering from an extreme form of PTSD after being brainwashed and tortured. He’s been conditioned to see Katniss as a threat and even attempts to kill her at the end of ‘Part One’. While in the books his recovery is elaborated on, in this movie it felt a tad bit rushed, and forced, so much so that I felt uneasy about Katniss letting her guard down around him. While watching, I almost felt like the ever-loyal Gale (played by the dashing Liam Hemsworth) would be a much better fit for her.
Besides a few minor nitpicks, as far as an adaptation goes, the series as a whole is nearly perfect. This entry was no exception. They only cut out what they absolutely had to, the set and costume designs were brilliant, and every character throughout was spot on, but more importantly they managed to capture the emotional resonance of the story.
Every actor was on point: Donald Sutherland’s portrayal of President Snow is going down in history as one of the greatest cinematic villains of all time, as always Woody Harrelson really brought the sarcastic but well meaning Haymitch to life, and of course the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman went out on a high note.
In fact, my biggest beef was we didn’t see nearly enough of the characters we got to know and love from the first couple entries: Stanley Tucci’s extravagant Caesar, Elizabeth Banks’s over-the-top Effie, and of course Jena Malone as the beautiful and deadly Johanna – perhaps my favorite character of the entire series. #TeamJohanna
In the end though, this entire movie rides on Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as our brave and reluctant, arrow-slinging heroine, which of course she completely embodies.
In fact, that’s always something I’ve loved about this series, the story doesn’t exactly go where you’d expect it to, instead it takes the far more interesting route in a way that really sticks with you and makes you think, long after you’ve put the book down or left the theater.
So go see it, but only if you’re caught up! – And may the odds be ever in your favor…