The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

2015, PG-13, 137 min. Directed by Francis Lawrence. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Natalie Dormer, Willow Shields, Mahershala Ali, Michelle Forbes.

REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Nov. 20, 2015

The final installment of Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular YA trilogy does not linger on past events, so if you have any confusion as to where things stand in this franchise, you’d best do your homework before buying that ticket. The film opens seconds after last year’s dreary and dull Mockingjay – Part 1 ended: Katniss (Lawrence) is recovering from the throttling she received from Peeta (Hutcherson) after he was “hijacked” by President Coriolanus Snow (Sutherland), the brainwashing technique turning Peeta into a Manchurian Candidate-type killer, gunning for the girl he once loved. That assassination attempt failing, we begin Part 2 with the rebels’ attempt to deprogram Peeta while insurgent leader Alma Coin (Moore, appropriately humorless) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Hoffman, heartbreaking to watch in his last role) strategize to storm the Capitol after rallying all the remaining districts to their cause. An exposition-heavy first act sees Katniss struggling with a) the same bullshit from the resistance that she was dealing with when she was squirming under the thumb of Snow’s establishment and b) that tired and uncompelling love triangle between her, milquetoast Peeta, and assertive Gale (Hemsworth) that has too often bogged down the series.

But once Katniss goes rogue and hitches a ride on a supply shuttle to the front line, the film finds its groove. Hellbent on killing Snow, Katniss has a plan to storm the Capitol, but that gets appropriated by Coin and Heavensbee, who team her up with a squad of elite soldiers (still-damaged Peeta included) and a propaganda film crew to venture into safe zones of the Capitol, shooting footage to rally the masses, while staying away from potential carnage. Suffice it to say, that does not go according to plan. Snow has had his Hunger Game “gamemakers” create endless “pods” throughout the besieged Capitol, deadly booby traps to halt the incoming rebel forces, hearkening back to those Hunger Games of yore. There are some spectacular set-pieces, involving flash floods of oil and scary subterranean “mutts” that quicken the pulse a lot more effectively than the whole Peeta/Gale thing. The death toll runs high in this last installment, but that’s as it should be. War is hell, folks.

I won’t delve into any third-act spoilers here (you’re welcome, the 54 people who haven’t read the books), but this concluding chapter is a solid culmination of a franchise that has had its ups and downs. Lawrence’s superb performance grounds the film, as she oscillates between badass archer and increasingly disenfranchised political pawn, and mercifully the late Hoffman’s CGI scenes are kept to a minimum. And while the film has about two endings too many, it’s an entertaining and exciting dystopian adventure that should satisfy fans of the series. It sets a high bar for YA adaptations that doesn’t look like it’s going to be raised anytime soon.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, Francis Lawrence, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Natalie Dormer, Willow Shields, Mahershala Ali, Michelle Forbes

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