07252017Headline:

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” movie review

By Jeff Boudreaux

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It’s been three years since “The Hunger Games” began its cinematic journey, enthralling moviegoers with its strong female warrior and showcasing themes of sacrifice, friendship and persecution by a totalitarian state, the latter being quite relevant in a world that harbored the likes of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. In “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2,” the final installment of the franchise based on the bestselling books by Suzanne Collins, Katniss Everdeen (Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence) continues on her journey as the Mockingjay (or figurehead) for the District 13 rebel coalition led by President Alma Coin (Oscar-winner Julianne Moore).KatnissThe nation of Panem is in the midst of an all-encompassing revolution, with District 2 being the only holdout in the coalition against the Capitol, headed by the wicked yet ailing President Coriolanus Snow (screen legend Donald Sutherland). Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is still harboring brainwashed resentment and anger towards Katniss and the rebels, and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) splits his time between leading District 13’s military forces and trying to connect with Katniss. Once District 2 comes on board (who wouldn’t join Katniss?), her team is given a mission to take the Capitol, a move we’ve been expecting since the last film in the series.hunger-games-mockingjay-part-2_gallery_primaryIt’s obvious that getting there won’t be easy between the obstacles laid by Snow (mine-ridden streets, the misnomer-labeled peacekeepers, and all sorts of other deadly tricks) to a still-unpredictable Peeta, who’s basically a walking time bomb. This fact doesn’t seem to bother Coin, as she delivers him smack-dab into the middle of the conflict! The question remains, is he placed alongside Katniss and Gale for moral support (since he’s in handcuffs and can’t be trusted), in hopes that the horrors of war will jog his memory? Or does Coin think Peeta might be her trump card to take out Katniss? The popular Mockingjay is definitely viewed as competition for her in the event of a successful campaign to free the citizens of Panem, which will force a free election. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, as the rebels can’t advance ten feet without major opposition and heavy casualties! Besides, freeing Panem is Coin’s objective, which Katniss fully supports. However, our heroine has her own plan – and that is to personally assassinate President Snow.Peeta in handcuffsAs this is the final installment in the series, all of our favorite characters are back. Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson reprise their roles as Katniss’ friends Effie and Haymitch, respectively. The face and personality of Panem TV, Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) makes only a couple of short appearances this time around, and strictly on video screens in Emergency Broadcast System-like warnings. And finally, the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman makes his last-ever screen appearance as Plutarch Heavensbee, Coin’s right hand. I was astonished at the number of scenes he was in, and it only made me think of how much myself, and many others, will miss this great actor’s work.plutarch-alma-coin-mockingjay_gallery_primary

In the culmination of Suzanne Collins’ bestselling book-to-screen saga, all the pieces finally fall into place. As a person who has waited with bated breath for the climax of this story over the past three years, refusing to read the books and carefully avoiding online spoilers as if it was the Black Death, I had no idea what I was in store for. Because I became so invested in the film series since the release of 2012’s “The Hunger Games, I was most certainly entertained…for the most part. There were some issues such as the sewer dwellers, who look like a ridiculously un-scary reimagining of the creatures from “The Descent,” a fellow Lionsgate release the producers would have been wise to borrow from. Not long before that scene (located around the middle of the film) there was a long, drawn-out campaign on foot that I wish had been shortened, as it almost brought the film to a halt. I have to blame this in particular on the decision to break the last book into two films, however this half came out better than the first one as far as fluff is concerned.mockingjay-part-2-katniss-peetaAnd I keep saying this in several of my reviews, but studios need to realize that less is almost always more, and filmgoers may want to remember that and retrospectively pause when they gasp as the screen fades to black at the (near) end. Unfortunately, because of that collective “what” in test audiences (no less), we were given another scene that I feel was nice, don’t get me wrong, but it was unnecessary and prevented the film from ending on one of the most subtle bangs that could have been. However, all of these takeaways couldn’t really do that much to sway my enjoyment or excitement at the events that unfolded towards the end of the film. Suzanne Collins created a saga that captivated readers and then, filmgoers like few others in the last several years. I’m glad that I was able to become a part of that cinematic experience, and I’m already looking forward to viewing all four films back-to-back when “Mockingjay – Part 2” makes its way to home media.
*** (three out of four stars)

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