The Conclusion of the Games: Mockingjay Part 2 by Spencer Wade
With the recent release of Mockingjay Part 2, the Hunger Games have finally come to an end. It has been three years since screen audiences were first introduced to Katniss Everdeen and the world of Panem, and seven years since the books were first published. In that time we’ve seen the series act as a launching pad for everything from careers to discussions about female heroes. Our book to film columnist Spencer Wade takes a look at the final installment.
Mockingjay Part 2 picks up where Part 1 left off, with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) rescued by District 13 but remaining brainwashed by the Capitol, and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) the reluctant face of Panem’s rebellion. The war against the Capitol is now in high gear, with Katniss determined to kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and end the bloody struggle. Their assault on the Capitol is complicated by vicious “pods,” booby traps that kill in inventive and horrible ways, essentially dropping the charging rebels into another round of the hunger games. In the meantime, rebel leader Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) has less than altruistic plans, and both Katniss and the audience realize that the people may be switching one tyrant for another.
The novel Mockingjay, first published in 2010, was divisive with the fans for being a grim story even for the Hunger Games books. Where The Hunger Games and Catching Fire were about a girl outwitting and surviving, Mockingjay was more of a pure war story with all the attendant horror. Splitting Mockingjay into two films was a controversial choice, and while it made for a slow first half, this second half is action-packed. Also worth noting for readers who were not a fan of the book’s epilogue, it remains in the movie.
Mockingjay Part 2 succeeds in capturing the tone of a war story, complete with the deaths of characters that the audience has grown to love over the course of several films. Like the novel, the film conveys that these characters have gone through tremendous and difficult changes. Katniss is no longer a somewhat naive girl and is now a disillusioned, traumatized survivor. Peeta went from being a sweet boy in love to a brainwashed killer. Gale (Liam Hemsworth) has gone from a steady supporter to a ruthless soldier in his own right. Prim (Willow Shield), Katniss’ little sister, has grown as a character since her first appearance, when she existed only as a child to be saved, and now comes into her own as a combat medic. War has touched even that which Katniss most wanted protected.
Lawrence again excels as Katniss, portraying her strength and vulnerability, her anger and pathos all at once. Sutherland’s Snow is still scene-stealingly evil, and Moore’s Coin plays his opposite number with understated grace and menace. Of course, when discussing the movie’s performances there is no way to avoid speaking of Philip Seymour Hoffman. The Academy Award-winning actor died before his scenes as propagandist Plutarch Heavensbee were completed, leaving audiences curious how his role would be affected. His absence can be clearly felt; he is in the movie notably less than it feels he should be, even to the point of a character reading a letter from him in one of the movie’s last scenes.
While the series may be over, the Hunger Games’ legacy will live on. With new fans catching the movies on cable (check here or here), or just now reading the trilogy, Katniss Everdeen will remain a heroine for the current generation and future generations to come. A mockingjay, if you will, for the heroines in her likeness who come after.
Spencer Wade is a freelance entertainment, film, and pop culture blogger. He can almost always be found with his face in a book or glued to the T.V. He lives and works in Chicago where the winters only serve to encourage this type of behavior.
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