The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Two is generally better than one.  Evidently, it applies here, too.
★★★½
Movie Review #1,032

hunger_games_mockingjay__part_two_ver21

Lionsgate
Adventure, Sci-Fi
2 hours, 17 minutes
Rated PG-13 (intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic elements)
Released November 20, 2015
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Screenplay by Peter Craig and Danny Strong
Adaptation by Suzanne Collins
From the novel “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Willow Shields, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Mahershala Ali, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Paula Malcomson, and Stanley Tucci

The cumbersomely titled “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” picks up only moments after the end of “Part 1”. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and her army start setting out to raid the Capitol, aiming ultimately to assassinate President Snow (Donald Sutherland), the oppressive leader of Panem. However, their efforts are hindered by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), her fellow victory in the 74th Hunger Games: his behavior is extremely unpredictable, as Snow has drugged him and brainwashed him into seeing Katniss as his enemy. Half the battle for Katniss is bringing Peeta back to his normal self; the other half, of course, is carrying out the revolution “Part 1” set up.

Jennifer Lawrence is an increasingly fine actress. She’s given her role of Katniss Everdeen more realism with each movie; naturally “Mockingjay – Part 2” is her greatest embodiment of the character, and for that matter, it’s one of the best performances of her career. She captures the emotional energy of the girl on fire in ways that transcend the screen and reach the audience. I’ll note that one of the final scenes, depicting her volatile reaction to the death of a key character, had me in tears.

The magnitude of Lawrence’s performance is matched by Julianne Moore and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in what has sadly become his final role. They’re the Robespierre and Danton of what has become a full-scale revolution, and they do damn well at that. I wish I could say the same of Donald Sutherland, the Louis XVI in this sense. His performance falters in comparison to those he has given in previous entries, and by the final third, he’s collapsed into a complete caricature.

I’ve lost count over how many times I’ve heard the complaint that the final book in Suzanne Collins’s trilogy was divided into two separate film adaptations. Yes, the idea of splitting one book into two movies was fueled by the prospects of turning some more profit. But when it works out as well as it does here, it doesn’t seem logical to make such a complaint about the movie. It’s a given that the film is a technical achievement.  The utterly unglamorous cinematography and set designs strengthen the dismal atmosphere of Panem, as they have for the three films prior, and James Newton Howard’s score reworks the music from “Part 1” excellently.  But what really hits home here is the screenplay.  Peter Craig and Danny Strong’s script works out so well, that I’m now finding it extremely difficult to imagine the book turning out well as a single-film adaptation.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing “The Hunger Games” series begin on the big screen, and three films later, I love the series a whole lot more. The series has established itself as a smart, politically minded action-adventure that teens and adults find exhilarating, and if there’s any sincere affirmation of that description, it’s the final entry in the series. Yes, it’s based on a highly successful young adult novel. But if we consider that other successful series of YA adaptations have included “Twilight”, “Divergent”, and “The Maze Runner”, then “Mockingjay – Part 2” is far too great to be a YA adaptation at all.

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