And so the games come to an end. Not with a bang, but with a dream.
There has been a running theme throughout the previous “Hunger Games” films – being used by more powerful people to achieve their goals and collect more power. To be pawns in someone else’s “games.” Since the beginning, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has been a tool for President Snow (Donald Sutherland) to keep his seat of power and control over the land of Panem, to remind the people who his way of life is what makes everyone else safe. But even when Katniss seems to break free of Snow’s control, she falls into the palm of President Coin (Julianne Moore), and acts as the figure-head of her rebellion. Katniss thinks that she’s fighting to take down Snow, when she’s merely propagating Coin’s agenda.
In the final installment of this franchise, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” Katniss finally realizes that she is caught in the middle between the game of Snow and Coin, and wants to be able to think for herself. This makes the film less about ending a war, and more about finding yourself when all you’ve known is what someone else told you.
In this respect, Jennifer Lawrence nails her role and might have given her best performance in this franchise yet. While at times, Lawrence looks bored and uninterested, that might be on purpose. This is someone who had the role of “savior” thrust upon her, against her will, has seen thousands of people die for a cause that she doesn’t fully believe in, and has been beaten down by the agenda of multiple presidents. This is a destroyed woman, who wants nothing more than to find a way out of all this, and the only way is to break free of all systems.
I’ve said in the past that the sole reason I was interested in the “Hunger Games” franchise was to watch Jennifer Lawrence continue to do what she does best – teeter on the edge of professionalism, eccentricity and insanity. I also said that this franchise was made to showcase Lawrence’s talent as an actress.
While I still stand by that, the last film had me intrigued by the story more than anything. By this point, I already knew that Lawrence was going to astound me with her acting abilities. What I did not expect was the methodical disregard for sympathy, as Coin and Snow use every last drop of blood to play their chess game. It comes across like both had every last move planned out to the most minute detail, including the use of poison in flowers.
As always, Donald Sutherland as President Snow captures the duality of a man who takes pleasure in the pain of others, while always remaining composed and proper. Normally, this would be a role that was one scar away from being a Bond villain, but instead we get a man who has imposed his will upon others while making them think it was their thoughts. There is a point in this film that summarizes up Snow perfectly, coming near the end of the film, and we finally seem him cackle, as he believes the game has been won.
With all of that said, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” has some problems.
The previous two films have built up this final act as an all-out assault, trying to take back the world and free it from the clutches of the evil Snow. Yet, there are roughly three sequences that make the film feel like a war. Outside of those scenes, this feels small and uninteresting.
At about the halfway point, our motley crew of teenage heroes have to fight a hoard of “Mutts,” though they might as well be straight out of a zombie movie. While the build-up to this scene was fine, with nice pacing and atmosphere in the cramped sewers, the pay-off was severely lacking, as the action sequence that follows is blurry, dark and far too fast to keep track of that it is impossible to tell what is happening. While this might have been a pivotal scene in the book, it was an unimaginative and poorly executed scene in the movie.
Overall, I was impressed by the “Hunger Games” film franchise. Going into each of these films, I did not expect other than to make us lose our minds over Jennifer Lawrence losing her mind. But each film in this series has been wonderful at messing with my expectations and giving us something a bit removed from the Hollywood formula.
When the weakest film in your series is the first movie, you know that something went right.
Is this a perfect ending to the “Hunger Games” franchise? No, but it was certainly a satisfying one that may or may not have been left up to interpretation on the fate of Katniss. Like the previous two films, this one has terrifying performances from Lawrence and Sutherland, Kubrick-ian production design and cinematography and a gripping conclusion to the story of Katniss’ fight to find herself in a world of lost people.
Final Grade: B-