‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2’ (2015) Review

Mockingjay – Part 2

The third book in The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins would get spilt into two parts. Both The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015) were filmed back-to-back, releasing one year apart from each other and Jennifer Lawrence would have one final outing as the protagonist of Katniss Everdeen.

There isn’t much set up that need to be explained for this entry of the franchise since it picks up one, maybe two days after the cliffhanger of the previous film. Peeta had been rescued from the Capitol but upon being reunited with Katniss, he ends up attacking her in an attempt to kill her. It is revealed that the Capitol had been doing experiments on his, — something called “Hijacking” – with the Tracker Jacket venom. They had been braining washing him into believing that Katniss was an experiment that the Capitol has made — a “mutt” — to bring harm to others, when in fact Peeta was the one who they had been experimenting on.

I decided to listen to the commentary on the DVD with both the director, Francis Lawrence and producer, Nina Jacobson, in order to gain a little more insight to this installment of the franchise. They mentioned something about how they wanted to get Katniss ‘to a place’ where she would become the Mockingjay for a larger purpose and not just take on the role for the sake of trying to save Peeta. By having Katniss accept that Peeta is no longer the man she knew, this would then gave her more of a reason to take the fight to the Capitol.

Plot Summary

Upon Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) getting strangled by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) she comes to terms with the fact that due to the brainwashing by the Capitol, the man she once knew was gone. She decides that the only thing for her to do is to put all of her focus and energy into embracing the responsibilities that come with being the “Mockingjay”.

No Longer wanting to be in District 13, she convinces President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) to send her out into the field again. She rejoins a strike team lead by Boggs (Mahershala Ali) and they head to District 2, where the last remaining allies of the Capitol remain and together with District 2’s rebels, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and Beetee (Jeffery Wright) come up with a plan to flush them out of the mountain — nicknamed “The Nut”.

After being shot, she wakes up back in District 13 where she is met by a recovering Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) and tells her that she plans on assassinating President Snow. During the wedding of Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and Annie Cresta (Stef Dawson), Katniss gives a prolonged hug to her little sister Primrose (Willow Shields), because Katniss has plans on sneaking off and whatever happens next … the two just might never see each other again.

As Katniss, Gale, Boggs and his strike team make make their way through the Capitol, he explains to them that they are going to hang back behind the rebels and avoid a series of death traps — known as “Pods” — as Cressida (Natalie Dormer) and her film crew will be able to film “propos” of Katniss in the Capitol, and send them back to Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in District 13 so he can broadcast them, along the way.

Coin wasn’t too pleased with Katniss, claiming that she has defied a direct order to leave District 13 and insinuates to Plutarch that whatever game Katniss is playing, it is because they are the ones who are calling the shots. The first curveball that gets sent Katniss’ way is having Peeta join the strike team. Katniss still doesn’t trust him as he still isn’t in his right mind but he is allowed to accompany them. The group then make their way through the sewers and fight off a pack of mutts. Many members of the strike team are lost along the way, and the remaining few then take refuge in a store owned by a woman named Tigris.

They hear an announcement saying that Snow’s mansion will become a safe haven for the residents of the Capitol, and Katniss and Gale intend to use the crowd to their advantage. Making their way to President Snow’s mansion, just before a hovercraft flies over, releasing a series of bombs that end up killing many of the men, woman and children in the crowd.

The rebels finally being able to take over his mansion, Katniss is given the chance to speak with Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland) in his greenhouse. Finally coming face-to-face with each other since he visited her in her home in Victor’s Village before she was sent back into the arena a second time. He tells her that the bombing in front of his mansion was not his idea and insists that it could only have been orchestrated by one other person: Coin.

Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) fits her in her Mockingjay outfit and she sets out to finally assassinate Snow, but things don’t go according to plan. Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) comes to visit her and he tells her that she isn’t going to get executed but that her punishment is that she will be forced to live out the rest of her days in District 12.

Fortunately for Katniss, she won’t be alone.

Katniss Everdeen

After getting shot, Katniss is ordered to stay in District 13 while the rebels fight their way through the Capitol. Being the rebellious little thing that she is, she defies Coins direct order and sneaks away onto a cargo jet to join the fight. Gale of course is happy to greet her and together they conspire to sneak away from the unit that they have been assigned to because Katniss has an hidden agenda of her very own: to assassinate President Snow.

By this point in time, Jennifer Lawrence was starting to step back from the limelight. Her popularity wasn’t exactly starting to fade but she wasn’t in the spotlight as much as she had once been when The Hunger Games franchise first started. She also started resenting playing the role of Mystique in the 20th Century Fox‘s X-Men movies, mostly due to the amount of body paint that it took in order to get the look of the character just right.

Two years would pass since her Oscar win for Silver Linings Playbook (2012), and with both Mockingjay movies being filmed at the same time, it was understandable that she needed a break. She wouldn’t release a movie in between The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015). The one year calendar wait for the latter would be far from worth it and would be deemed the weakest entry of the franchise.

Despite that, her return performance as Katniss Everdeen was just as solid as ever. These two Mockingjay movies were filmed months after her Oscar win and I kind of got the feeling that it had changed it a little bit. Not that it went to her head but that her interest in playing Katniss had dwindled a slight bit. She didn’t seem to have the same pain in her eyes that she once had in both The Hunger Games (2012) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), but rather it looked like she now had the look of boredom. However, going back and rewatching these movies now, I don’t get that same impression when they had first released. Even though these last three movies are meant to take place within a few months, it’s understandable that Jenn herself would change as a person over the passage of three years.

The one thing that makes Katniss stand out as a character if the fact that she was able to stay true to herself throughout her journey, even all the way up until the end she never faltered. It’s admirable to see her preserver and endure everything that has been thrown her way, she never gave in and she never stopped fighting. She never once let the spark inside of her burn out, the spark that caught fire and Panem into a blazing inferno and throughout everything that she has gone through and everybody that she has lost along the way, when she is finally able to get her happy ending, it is more than well deserved.

The Mockingjay

Katniss has finally embraced being the Mockingjay and has completely dedicated herself to the cause. She had so many people pulling her in every which direction, telling her what to do as well as who to be and though she agrees to go along with what everybody wants her to do and reluctantly putting her trust in a few people along the way, there is still a very real defiance to her that tells the audience that she has been and always will be on her own side.

Upon Alma Coin naming herself the new President of Panem, but Katniss plays the long con and agrees to go along with whatever Coin wants to implement now that she has usurped the throne from Coriolanus Snow. Upon said agreement, Katniss demands that she be the one to assassinate Snow. This is a compromise that Coin is more than willing to grant her.

One of the best scenes in the entire franchise comes during President Snow’s execution. Katniss takes this humongous trek from one end of the stadium to the other with all of the rebels and citizens following her and gathering around to witness Coriolanus Snow finally get his due for putting them through unsufferable hardship during his reign on Panem. But Katniss, in all of her unpredictability, gives us one last final shock. Despite all of the hurt that Snow has put her through, and all of the hatred and distain that she has for him, she lifts her bow and chooses to fire upon the true enemy and Katniss finally gets her revenge.

Differences From the Book

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015) has the unfortunate task of only being able to adapt the last third of the book. There was a lot of this movie that was really stretched out for no good reason other than the sake of trying to fill out a two-hour movie, and it shows. This is the only film in the franchise that has a pacing problem and it comes just after they have arrived at the Capitol and proceed to make their way to President Snow’s mansion.

But I want to skip over all of that nonsense and get to the two parts of Mockingjay that truly shocked me when I read the book. The first one comes with little Primrose Everdeen. There was a lot that got changed in the movie from the book, but this was one that stayed true to the source material. The only problem with this is, with all of the other characters who had gotten their roles expanded for the films, Prim seemed to have gotten left by the wayside. She had a few good scenes throughout the series but not enough for the audience to truly get attached to her, which makes her final scene hit not as hard as it probably should. The second comes with Coin … as President Snow is standing there ready to be executed with Katniss having her bow fixated on him, as she lifts her aim from him to Coin, this was one of those twists that when I was reading the book, I just did not see coming.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Coin when she was first introduced and I also felt that it was a little cheap to introduce such an important character this late in the series, especially given that President Snow has already been established in the Capitol as the main antagonist in the series, if felt weird to then shift the attention off of him and focus it all on her instead.

Sometimes, I wish that I hadn’t read the book prior to these two movies. It almost makes me feel like I would’ve enjoyed them more, and these two specific plot points in the story — that I had to reread to make sure that I read them correctly — maybe they would’ve hit a lot harder and more shocking had I not known that they were coming. It’s a shame that these books are for young adults because this entry in the series really takes no prisoners and it could’ve been a lot more free of restrictions had it been aimed at a more mature audience.

Final Thoughts

I thought that I was going to defend this movie but that actually not what I’m going to be doing. I didn’t read the books until after I saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) and as much as I loved that one, Mockingjay wasn’t able to raise the bar any higher than that one was capable of achieving. I didn’t particularly love the The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015) when it first came out, but prior to writing these reviews, I decided to go back and rewatched both of them for the first time as a double feature I was thoroughly entertained.

Whereas both Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings build up to these big, epic, grand and satisfying conclusions, Mockingjay is the series’ weakest entry in the books and that quality unfortunately can’t help but show up in the movies, as well. The biggest thing that these last two movies have going for them is the fact that they were both filmed at the exact same time, so it’s best to think of them as one long movie instead of two separate entries because they are both able to maintain quality within their own quality. The other thing that they benefit from is that the books were written before getting adapted, so the story is given a proper ending in nothing else.

Like I said, I’m not going to defend these movies but I also don’t feel that they deserve to be hated or dismissed either. This is my favorite of the young adult novel movies that once consumed cinema and since going back and rewatching these last two films, I have found new love for them both and I gladly welcome them as solid entries to Katniss’ journey.

For those who have choose to watch both movies, you probably don’t have much affinity for either of them. Which is understandable. Even I was disappointed upon first watch. But if you haven’t seen either of the Mockingjay movies, or if you have somehow only seen one, all I can say is that you have come so close, it would be such a shame to give up on them now because Katniss Everdeen has one of the best heroic journey’s that cinema has ever told.