I’m not the biggest fan of the turn every Young Adult sci-fi novel into a lengthy film series trend. I think those Divergent movies are utter dross; I liked the first Maze Runner a surprisingly amount while the sequel was just okay. The reason for this trend, the immeasurably popular Hunger Games movies, I sort of regarded as good for what they are. The first movie was enjoyable despite the rampant use of a nauseatingly shaky cam, Catching Fire felt like a less hopeful retread of the same material, and Mockingjay – Part 1 was interesting but didn’t go anywhere.
With Mockingjay – Part 2, however, we finally have a movie worthy of the hype.
Give me a good dystopian epic any day. The series has veered closer and closer into 1984 territory with President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland’s) big talking head projected everywhere. Now, however, not only do we have him representing the oppressive Capitol, we have District 13’s leader, President Coin (Julianne Moore). Naturally, the Mockingjay herself, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who represents more than just hope, but a contempt of authority, might have a few things to say about it.
Picking right up where the last movie left off — probably because it was one book — Mockingjay – Part 2 finds Katniss recovering from her attempted murder by a brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). The propaganda campaign with her face front and center is in full swing, though she’d much rather be on the front lines. Because of what happened to Peeta, Katniss is more determined than ever to kill Snow herself, and devises a way to get into the Capitol to do it. Along with Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick (Sam Claflin), and several of the Propo team we met in the last film, Katniss enters the Capitol where gamemakers have rigged deadly booby traps like flamethrowers, mini-guns, and buzzsaw floors along the streets leading to the mansion, prompting one of the only eye-rolling lines in the movie: “Welcome to the 76th Hunger Games.” All right, I think we get it.
Because, for me, the stuff about the Games was never that interesting. It’s a horrible thing these kids would have to endure, and the movies did a good job of showing the ridiculousness of the media coverage of such a thing, but it was all just propagated by a hedonistic upper class. This is a movie about people on a mission. I want to see the real struggle, the life or death stakes that actually mean something, even if the ultimate realization is that war is useless and all deaths are meaningless. That’s the stuff that hits me in the sweet spot of the sci-fi loving brain. And this movie shows us that — not everybody on the same side has the same ideals and the difference between hero and war criminal is a matter of perspective, of degrees.
Francis Lawrence, who took over directing duties for the series with Catching Fire, offers perhaps his best vision of this bleak future world, with the color palate made almost entirely of shades of grey. There are several large action set pieces, the most impressive of which is a chase through the sewers with ravenous mutts — this universe’s version of the pale mutants in Lawrence’s I Am Legend — that leads to some sad times, and Katniss’ attempt to march toward Snow’s mansion while the rebels bomb the very streets around her.
What I think I appreciate most about the movie is that it doesn’t wrap things up nicely. The emotional climax of the movie is very small and personal while the action climax of the movie is a single act. While some of the other films felt corny to me, or overly melodramatic, the majority of the emotion here felt justified, and the consequences are immediate. If The Hunger Games represents the series at its most juvenile, then Mockingjay – Part 2 is it having shed most of its childish ways. War is hell and people die senselessly, whether it’s in Panem or real life.
4 out of 5 meaty totalitarian-fighting burritos
Kyle Anderson is a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. He’s also the Weekend Editor. Look, he’s a man of many hats. Ask him about stylish head wear (or other stuff) on Twitter!