Welcome to the second to last movie based off of the Hunger Games books. The journey has been long and arduous, but the Mockingjay continues on her quest for revenge.
Katniss Everdeen has been on quite the journey over the past few years. She has gone from a girl who wanted to save her sister to the face of the rebellion against the Capitol. And she has not emerged unscathed. She is currently a profoundly damaged individual who has seen and lost more than anyone can reasonably expect to deal with. She has been forced into a relationship she didn’t seek even though she does love the boy, she has seen friends and allies murdered, her home has been destroyed, the president has personally threatened her and her loved ones, and her allies have lied to and used her. Anyone who can emerge from all of this undamaged has something wrong with them, and Katniss most definitely does not have anything wrong with her.
Jennifer Lawrence did a marvelous job showing the effects that the past two years have had on Katniss. While retaining the core of strength that has helped Katniss survive, Jennifer also shows the vulnerability that Katniss has. She cares so much about the people in her life and has such empathy for other people that she often has to wall herself away to maintain any semblance of sanity. She was at her best in the scene in the hospital in District 8 when she said that she was the Mockingjay and would fight for everyone. That particular scene was incredibly touching and very poignant. Yet, just a few minutes later, she showed another side of Katniss, the fire and drive that has made her the enemy that President Snow so fears. The ironic thing is that President Snow had a huge part in making her that enemy. Like many tyrants, he laid the groundwork that created his ultimate enemy, the implacable foe who will do almost anything to stop him.
Josh Hutcherson continued to a wonderful job as Peeta Mellark. While it was never specifically stated, I suspect that the Capitol threatened Katniss if he did not do what they wanted. He toed the line to keep peace, which is in keeping with the Peeta we have seen in the earlier films, but when he saw Katniss in the ruins of District 12, that was enough to get him to rebel against the Capitol himself. And in the final scenes where he attacked Katniss and where he was restrained in the bed, we saw the damage that has been done to him. The closest thing this universe has to a white hat has been permanently damaged by what the Capitol has done to him.
The rest of the cast also did a great job. Julianne Moore played President Coin with a quiet strength that conceals a dangerous enmity towards anyone who crosses her. The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman showed Plutarch Heavensbee out of his comfort zone, but desperately trying to maintain control of the situation. Liam Hemsworth gave us more depth to Gale Hawthorne in just a few scenes than we have gotten from the previous 2 movies together. And Elizabeth Banks gave us a sartorially toned down Effie Trinket, without missing any of her personality.
Ever since they announced that the book would be split into two movies, a lot of people have been complaining that it was only done for money. While I have no doubt that was a part of the decision, I also want to note that had they tried to fit everything from the book into one movie, they would have had to cut out huge swaths of the story, which would have caused these same people to complain about that. So pick whether you want to have more of the story from the book or only one movie. Personally, I go with the former and am very glad that they chose that route.
As for the ending, I have read other reviews where people complained that it seemed sudden. Had I been given a choice where to end the book, I would have chosen one of two spots: when they chose or when Katniss announced that she wanted to go to the Capitol to kill President Snow. I think this ending, where you saw Peeta through a window framed by Katniss’ horrified face, made for the perfect ending to lead us to the final movie next year.
LETTER GRADE: A