If nothing else, The Hunger Games franchise has been responsible for elevating Jennifer Lawrence into a bona fide Hollywood movie star. Of course, whether that is a good thing or not is debatable, but Lawrence is certainly an omnipresent entity whose profile and influence has grown exponentially since she first served notice of her considerable talents with an Academy Award-nominated performance in the independent drama Winter’s Bone (having subsequently won an Oscar for a less accomplished performance in Silver Linings Playbook). In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Lawrence reprises her role as Katniss Everdeen, the great white hope for change in the dystopic dictatorship of Panem. In this final film based on the series of Young Adult novels by Suzanne Collins (who also serves as Executive Producer), Katniss is fixated on revenge and the film is, by and large, a road movie that tracks her journey to the Capitol to assassinate President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
Picking up where the previous instalment left off, the film opens with Katniss undergoing vocal therapy as a result of the damage to her throat by Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Needless to say, her recovery is almost instantaneous so that the action can get underway quick smart. With a group of rebel soldiers at her side (she technically isn’t the leader of the group, but she has little interest in chains of command or following orders because she is the Mockingjay after all), Katniss sets off for the Capitol with Snow in her sights. Encountering various forms of resistance, from a series of elaborate booby traps to government troops to ‘mutts’ – grotesque creatures that resemble those that inhabited the caves of Neil Marshall’s The Descent – the group reach their destination and the inevitable showdown between Katniss and Snow looms. Through it all, Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) continue their efforts to manipulate Katniss into executing a course of action that would hand supreme power to Coin.
There isn’t much point elaborating too much here because those who haven’t seen the previous films are not likely to start now and devout Hunger Games fans will be lapping it up regardless of what I, or anybody else thinks. The quality cast, which includes Natalie Dormer, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Jena Malone, Sam Claflin and Jeffery Wright, bring a high degree of earnestness to their roles, despite the overarching silliness of some of the characters. Malone’s Johanna Mason is perhaps the most interesting of the minor players and it certainly would have been good to see more of her. There are lulls in the action, perhaps more than some would like, as Katniss introspects everything and everyone in search of answers to the some key questions: What is the truth? What is real? Who can I trust?
Certainly, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 delivers some social commentary about the power of propaganda and manufactured consent, while the use of the term ‘peace keeper’ to describe the Government troops charged with quelling citizen unrest seems like a not-so-subtle swipe at the various peace keeping forces operating in various parts of the world. The images of crumbling buildings and debris-filled streets are quite evocative and the various actions sequences are shot from myriad angles, enhancing the level of chaos. There is no doubt this series has been carefully constructed to appeal to both genders with the high octane moments interspersed with the ongoing love triangle narrative as Katniss is forced to choose between the loyal Gale and the unstable Peeta. It is in the final moments of the film that her decision is revealed (although there was never really much doubt even for those who have not read the books) in a sickly sentimental sequence that only serves to leave a lasting stain on what is otherwise one of the better YA franchises to make the transition from page to screen.