The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (2015)

Directed by Francis Lawrence

“Part 2” picks up where “Part 1” left off. Which meant after ten minutes I was checking my watch, hoping to make an early exit unnoticed. But after another ten minutes, “Part 2” sets up its plot. And boy is it a doozy. A relevant one, too. The Mockingjay herself, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), plans to put an end to President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland) regime once and for all. She’s going to be the one to put the nail in his coffin and the arrow in his head. But the entire Capitol is covered in traps, a deadly minefield with Snow’s mansion in the center. Alongside an elite group including Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick (Sam Claflin), and others, Katniss is determined make her way through the city in an effort to fulfill her promise.

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The Hunger Games” franchise can be exciting like few other franchises know how…when it sets its mind to it. “Part 1” pulled from the boring half of Suzanne Collins’ final book, which led to a terribly disappointing third installment that, in all honesty, should have never been split in the first place. But if “Part 1” left a bad taste in your mouth, let “Part 2” be your mouthwash. Okay, “Part 2” might not be on the same level as, say, “Catching Fire.” But as a guilty-as-charged “Catching Fire” fanboy, that was a high bar to reach. Nevertheless, “Part 2” gets your heart racing with more killing-for-sport action. Where the first “Hunger Games” film notably stayed away from showing deaths on screen, “Part 2” seems to relish in it. You’ll have to give a three-finger salute to a few of your favorites, but mostly you take childish pride in seeing the enemy destroyed. It’s an emotional ride full of explosive action, nearly start to finish.

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After her downtrodden and boring portrayal of Katniss nearly ruined the character in “Part 1,” Jennifer Lawrence brings her back to life in “Part 2.” Just ignore the propagandistic “inspirational” speeches in the first few minutes. Those have never felt real. But overall, Lawrence gets into character and breathes new life into the revitalized Katniss. Now she has something to work for. Still, you have to wonder whether Lawrence is tired of playing a child. Maybe she’s too busy to have her heart in it. Either way, she musters the wherewithal to give it one more valiant effort before we bid adieu to the Girl on Fire. Peeta, still coming down from his Capitol brainwashing, is still not himself. And, therefore, neither is Hutcherson. It does give you a chance to fall in love with Gale and Finnick, at least. Donald Sutherland seems to revel in the vileness of President Snow, and it makes for a truly unlikable antagonist. He’s as good here as ever.

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“Part 2” also strikes a socially conscious chord with its characters’ unique opinions on political refugees. Obviously filmmakers couldn’t have foreseen the relevance of its plot, but it doesn’t always say the right thing, in light of the recent tragedy. Regardless, the plot gets a new layer, a new lens of context. It makes for an interesting piece of unintended political analysis…if you choose to read into it like that.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” concludes the franchise better than I would have guessed. Better than many franchises can hope to end. May the odds be ever in its favor.

7/10

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