In fitting fashion, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKING JAY PART 2 picks up right where THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKING JAY PART 1 left off with the immediate aftermath of the horrible and unpredictable ways that war and the mental and physical violence that defines it irrevocably affects people. If anything, from the start of the series, THE HUNGER GAMES has been a very personal treatise on the politics of war and what people are capable of doing – both good and bad – under it’s influence. As such, it is sadly but eerily fitting that the final installment of this series is being released when the world is experiencing such turmoil with the #blacklivesmatter movement, terrorist attacks in France, Africa and the Middle East, as well as the torrents of refugees pouring across Europe, weathering international waters off the coast of Asia and seeking asylum here in America to escape civil horrors that do not pale when compared to the terrors suffered in fictional Panem. Yet despite the worry of MOCKING JAY PART 2 seeming too hollow or too movie magic contrived due to these realities, the movie soars. MOCKING JAY PART 2 works winningly as a highly entertaining end to a series with characters that we have come to care about. It also works extremely accurately as a parable of warning. If we can’t learn as a global community to strengthen the connections that join us and release our grip on the differences that divide us, we may soon find ourselves in our very own worst self made Panem – if we aren’t already halfway there.
The symbolism is done well in MOCKING JAY PART 2, but it isn’t with such a heavy hand that the visually cinematic art, action joie de vivre or the essence of the characters is lost in the making. After the initial shock of Peeta’s complete loss of identity, the audience goes on a dangerous nail-biting journey to see if Katniss can retrieve the real Peeta or if she must abandon him completely in her war against President Snow and all that is wrong in the world of Panem. The symbolism lies in everything that the old Peeta represents for both Katniss and Panem at large – the gentleness and kindness that the Hunger Games’ looks to destroy in the name of a better more efficient society. Appropriately for fans and regular moviegoers alike, Katniss’s way of protecting and relocating a kinder gentler world as well as a kinder gentler Peeta is anything but non violent or vague. Also as MOCKING JAY PART 2 is truly an urban legends road movie from hell, in the bargain Katniss is constantly hunting the omnipresent but remote President Snow, played with deliciously craven duplicity by Donald Sutherland.
While the movie could get bogged down in an overly simplistic hunt for Snow as the root of all evil, MOCKING JAY doesn’t disappoint by taking the easy way out of the bigger issues of culpability in war.
For those who want to escape the weighty issues of the world, this is a movie that also delivers as a purely escapist action adventure survival of the fittest romp. Indeed, when at one point Katniss accuses Peeta of being nothing more than a “mutt”, the weight of the insult becomes all too real when we see the “movie magic” version of exactly what everyone is talking about.
Jennifer Lawrence is electric as the bluntly motivated Katniss, forced to make the best of untenable situations under the unblinking scrutiny of those who see her as something to be killed or revered. Josh Hutcherson is more nuanced and soulful as ever as Peeta, the man who can’t decipher reality from fantasy. Mahershala Ali does a great turn as the dutiful but moral Boggs, President Coin’s watchdog with a conscience. Jena Malone is satisfyingly acidic as Johanna, the tribute who can’t help hating Katniss for wanting to be her. Elizabeth Banks remains a brilliant concoction of female drag queen and postmodern lady in waiting to Lawrence’s heroine who could use a good shoulder to cry on if she didn’t always have to be the resident badass of the free world.
If any criticism could be waged against the film, it would be that Jeffrey Wright, always a brilliant actor to watch, doesn’t have much screen time. However, this criticism, as there is almost an over abundance of talented actors involved in MOCKING JAY PART 2, would be quite petty and frankly this film is just too good for that. MOCKING JAY PART 2 is the perfect end to a great series as well as a wonderful addition anyone’s Thanksgiving season must see in the theater list. Don’t miss it.