After Harry Potter ended with the second part of Deathly Hallows in 2011, the throne of young adult novel adaptations awaited its next successor. In 2012, the first Hunger Games film came out into theaters. With its savage kill-or-be-killed premise by using children for public entertainment and powered by the performance of then unknown Jennifer Lawrence, it appeared that we found that next series set to take the throne.
This year, the final film of the movie series has abandoned hope in the darkness as it comes to an conclusion.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 picks up immediately after Part 1, opening midscene like a bookmark was put on directly after the first part. Our heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is bruised and broken after the failed assassination attempt by her onetime friend/fiance/fellow victor Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), whose mind has been warped to a paranoid and violent point by President Snow’s Capitol subjects. The rebellion seems to be falling apart, the Districts turning on each other as they look to any form of leadership, and even Snow, physically, looks to be dwindling. These days, poisoning an insubordinate only brings the thinnest wisp of a smile.
After what happened to Peeta, Katniss only sees one way to end this conflict: Snow needs to die. As long as Katniss lives to see another day, the Rebellion still has plans to succeed. Once she has recovered enough to strap on her longbow again, Katniss joins an all-star team of Tributes and soldiers on a march towards the Capitol. However, it’s more of a propaganda team to broadcast their progress ahead of the front lines – until they discovered there are no “safe zones” in the Capitol: Buildings are booby-trapped, bullets are real, and the traps are lethal to anyone who triggers them. One such sequence was a terrifying battle scene where a slithering army of mutants with boiled-frog skin and barracuda teeth attacks, turning possible safe way into a death trap.
With scenes like that, you have to wonder if this movie is really for its young adult-intended audience. Even though I’ve read the novel and I’m an adult, some of these scenes made me jump out of my seat. To be fair, author Suzanne Collins’ source material always fell outside of the conventional YA genre as far as the kids killing kids for sport. But she provided a balanced moral universe, the underlying love story, and a female protagonist who is smart, resourceful, complicated, and self-determined. Lawrence, a Best Actress award later after the start of Hunger Games, continued to be the heart and soul of the series. Since the start of the series, Katniss seemed to be tailor-made for Lawrence; from Everdeen’s humble hunting days in District 12 to winning the Games to becoming a symbol of rebellion to the emotional, broken but determined young woman that we encounter in Mockingjay Part 2. Jennifer Lawrence seems to understand the symbolic weight her character has been asked to carry
The first two films managed the challenge of visually presenting the books’ violence without fully diving into the territory their target audience demo couldn’t handle. What separates the first two films and the two-part Mockingjay finale is that Mockingjay strays too far into the darkness: With its political power struggles and immense body count, it felt more like an episode of Game of Thrones than a YA movie. The acting of the rest of the cast was great; all of them showing the emotion, even in character, that this was the end of a three year odyssey. It was an enthralling conclusion to the films that will leave the devoted fans happy.