by David Robinson, Movie Reviewer
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 2” concludes the immensely popular quartet of films based upon the trilogy of best-selling young adult novels by Suzanne Collins. As in the previous segments of the story, Jennifer Lawrence owns the show as the heroic Katniss Everdeen, a victor in the title “games” who goes on to become a symbol of the revolution against the dictatorial culture that lionized her.
Here, however, much of the tension arises from her refusal to be merely a symbol. Itching to use her remarkable archery skills in the fight to kill President Snow (Donald Sutherland, superbly hateful here), whom she blames for the suffering that the land of Panem — other than the decadent Capital — has endured. She is also torn between two men as potential lovers: her fellow Tribute Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth), her fellow hunter and friend.
Finally, Katniss must deal with the loss of so many of her friends and guilt over inability to save them. In this dimension of the character, Lawrence demonstrates her remarkable growth as an actor. Her performance shows the full range of the physical and emotional skills that we look for in a cinematic star, paralleling Katniss’ own evolution into a complex, mature woman.
Working with a screenplay by Peter Craig and Danny Strong — with an adaptation credit for Collins — director Francis Lawrence builds upon his work in the prior two installments of the series. This one is considerably slower paced than the first two, in which there were actual Hunger Games, with plenty of spectacle and some notes of trenchant social satire. Both the mood and the lighting are more somber here, although plenty of action ensues in the form of battle scenes.
These new, even more deadly “games” feature not only gunfights but also a series of clever traps called “pods,” which take the form of sludge rivers, flame throwers, and even a pack of “Mutts,” flesh-eating zombies who are much faster and more agile than your usual undead. In a superbly edited chase scene through the sewers of the Capital, Katniss and her fellow rebels make their way to a final confrontation that adds to the movie’s social commentary about not becoming the people you hate.
Fans of the series will be satisfied by this concluding number. Rated “PG-13” like it predecessors, it may be a mite too violent for subteens, and their older siblings could find the going too slow to hold their full attention. The loss of Phillip Seymour Hoffman — who appears in some cameos filmed before this death — and the diminished roles of Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, and Elizabeth Banks reduce some of the bizarre energy of the earlier films. And, even though it’s in the interest of building suspense, director Lawrence often lets a scene play on too long, causing a further loss of momentum.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 2” will do great box office business, of course, and not just with the young adults who are its biggest fans and likely repeat viewers. It also figures to cement Jennifer Lawrence’s reputation as one of the best of the new generation of stars.