The Hunger Games: The Mockingjay Part 2
Slogging to an end
The Hunger Games series slogs to an end with the second part of the Mockingjay. If you have seen the previous three films you need to see this film to bring resolution, which is what the producers were counting on when they split the third installment into two. That seems to be the standard approach with these epic stories, which in essence is what Katniss discovers as the series draws to a close and understands how both sides in this battle have attempted to manipulate her for their own purposes, just as we are manipulated to pay for one more ticket.
Remember, just like Katniss, you are part of the game and you can choose how you digest the narrative.
Mockingjay 2, without the energy of Catching Fire, plods along to inevitable confrontation with President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Without revealing the ending, Katniss again has to decide what is the morally right thing to do. She must play the game while at the same time undermining what seems to be a predetermined course.
Jennifer Lawrence carries this film on her back, in the same way that Katniss is loaded down as the emotional/moral center of the rebels’ fight against the oppressive Capitol. Katniss desires to protect her family and return to being the young hunter out in the woods with a friend. This is not her destiny, and she is forced to make hard decisions regarding revenge and the ideas of collateral damage that are often justified in times of war. She has lost her innocence, but she has not abandoned her core.
She refuses to compromise about letting civilians and children get in the way. She doesn’t want needless casualties. Her choice is to remove the head and let the rest of the people live. Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), president of the resistance, uses her as propaganda to inspire the troops, while at the same time putting her in danger, since a martyr might be even more effective. A martyr also doesn’t get in your way as you make decisions counter to the moral compass of Katniss. It is all a game—for both sides—and those in power manipulate the masses. In this series, both the Capitol and the resistance dress up Katniss to make her more appealing, while she struggles to be free of being only a prop.
Katniss in both the book and film series goes from an innocent girl thrust into a violent game to a strong leader who makes decisions and puts herself in danger for what she believes. She refuses to deviate much from her moral bearings and experiences real pain when her comrades die to further her mission. While she has become a warrior, she retains her empathy and ability to move beyond seeing the other only as “enemy.” She attempts to stop the slaughter of those who support the Capitol, even when she must stand between the two forces. She would choose to die rather than give up this belief. Katniss learns on this dangerous journey that she is a pawn in the game, like all the people dying on both sides of this fight.
She cares about her family; she doesn’t fight to show she is tough—she wants to protect those she loves. Her concern is big enough to extend to almost everyone. This is why the theme of revenge rings untrue when forced into this narrative. It doesn’t match her character, who is usually able to see people as complex beings with even conflicting desires and impulses.
The love triangle gets tiring, but at least it is only the young men who seem to be concerned. Maybe they have more trouble understanding love that exists outside the bounds of sexuality or even of owning her affections.
Jennifer Lawrence is great in the film, but many of the cast we connected with in the previous movies are only on screen for a short time. The loss of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in the middle of filming, forces the film to find his ballast by other means. The letter from him at the end helps, but the lack of his presence on screen in more scenes is missed.
The ending after the ending, with its golden, nostalgic lighting and restored domesticity, is unnecessary. I find it to be a partial negation of the whole series, as this young woman seeks to control her own destiny but now returns to the status quo, as if all of it were only a bad memory.
Yes, one movie would have been enough, but if you have invested in the previous three movies, go. Remember, just like Katniss, you are part of the game and you can choose how you digest the narrative.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay 2 is rated PG-13.