I had hoped that somehow the final film of the Hunger Games cycle would find the kind of resolution that would ultimately make the four Hunger Games films worth watching. After all, I had heard a professor at the Wild Goose Festival speak enthusiastically about the value of the books (which I haven’t read). Alas, it was not to be.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 was in most ways the worst of the four films. Its entire plot can be summarized in four words: ‘rebels attack the Capitol’. Sure, there’s a subplot about Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) deciding it’s her personal mission to kill the evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland) regardless of what President Coin (Julianne Moore), the leader of the rebels, wants her to do, and another subplot about Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), but this final film is focused on action (on the rebels attacking the Capitol). And when the plot twists finally come, they are entirely predictable.
There are some interesting conversations along the way, mostly in the first few minutes and the last few minutes of the film. A number of those conversations seem to question whether the ends ever justify the means (is it better to kill a few so that a great many more might be saved?), and there’s a strong anti-killing theme. When Katniss questions military actions that endanger the lives of civilians, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) tells her that no one who supports the Capitol is innocent. Katniss is not persuaded and replies that this line of reasoning would justify even the Hunger Games themselves. I won’t give away the end, but again we have Katniss in a conversation which suggests the ends can never justify the means. Not long after that conversation, we have the film’s final message: “Well, actually, good ends can sometimes justify violent (lethal) means,” thus undoing any positive messages that preceded it. So sad.
Readers of the books can argue that none of the violence was meant to be seen as the best way and that Katniss will suffer trauma for every life she took, but that doesn’t explain the underlying message of the books’ conclusion or the fact that the film clearly supports the final violence of the film as the best way forward. So sad.
The first two Hunger Games films at least had a variety of allegorical references that criticized the wealthy nations of our world which exploit the poor or which criticized reality TV or which criticized the use of violence as entertainment. But there’s precious little social commentary in Mockingjay, Part 2. And given the amount of PG violence in this film, which is clearly meant to entertain at some level, the criticism of the first film seems rather hypocritical. So sad.
At least it wasn’t 3D and the cinematography and score were diverting. Sadly, like Part 1, Mockingjay, Part 2 gets only **+. My mug is down.
NOTE: I’m writing a longer review for the Canadian Mennonite and will post the link when that’s available. Here it is: http://www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/any-price-victory
However, Canadian Mennonite decided to edit out the following two sentences, which concluded my review. I consider them important enough to add here: The Hunger Games films could have inspired young adults to dedicate their lives to taking action against poverty, war, climate change, racism, consumerism, etc. Instead, they have become an example of the very conformity they set out to confront, providing simplistic and formulaic violence-based entertainment that takes few risks.