Though my “Hunger Games”-crazed friends can spend hours debating whether Peeta or Gale is Katniss’s true soulmate, they can all agree that “Mockingjay” is by far the most disappointing novel of the series. Despite the novel’s failure to deliver the conclusion readers desired, the film adaptation turns this rather subpar material into a powerful and impactful ending to the franchise.
Picking up where the first “Mockingjay” film left off, “Mockingjay – Part 2” details Katniss’s (Jennifer Lawrence, “X-Men: Days of Future Past”) journey as she transitions from being a pawn in villain President Snow’s (Donald Sutherland, “Forsaken”) game to playing by her own rules, leading a military revolt against the Capital. This daunting task is both emotionally and physically grueling. The root of her emotional stress is Peeta’s (Josh Hutcherson, “Red Dawn”) mental instability, Gale’s (Liam Hemsworth, “The Dressmaker”) questionable motivations and actions and, of course, the taunts of President Snow. Always the epitome of a strong female protagonist, Katniss runs, jumps and roundhouse kicks her way to the Capital. With her resurgence of inner strength, determination and the help of her mostly loyal friends, the odds, for once, are strongly in her favor.
Among all the reasons fans complain about “Mockingjay,” the one they most passionately rage about is its predictability. Collins’s choice of words fails to deliver the much needed suspense to keep readers intrigued. While Director Francis Lawrence (“Water for Elephants”) is able to hold viewers’ attention with the rapid succession of shots taken from a variety of angles, these quick transitions make it impossible to think about what could possibly happen next when you’re still processing what just happened two seconds ago. His use of shadows also effectively enhances the suspenseful mood by making it impossible to discern what is going to attack the team next, and when.
Authors can write effectively enough that readers can form a deep connection with one, or many characters, but nothing compares to seeing real people’s interactions and expressions of emotion. In the novel, Peeta just seems like a whiny guy with some mental issues. In his best “Hunger Games” performance yet, Hutchinson showcases the true struggle Peeta goes through as he slowly transitions from his drugged delusion and enters the real world. He is often seen gripping his head in frustration, and is obsessed with asking his comrades whether certain facts or memories are “real” or “not real.” Peeta’s audible discomfort along with the close-up shots revealing his pained facial expressions allow us to feel the same sense of vexation and confusion he does.
Of course, it’s impossible to review any “Hunger Games” film without discussing about Katniss. With words more significant than the threat of a bullet, she’s able to effectively change the minds of the brainwashed opposition, and, even more impressively, her foil Peeta. Indeed, Katniss has what many girls want — two very attractive men fighting for her love — but (unlike a certain other popular young adult franchises) choosing between them is the least of her worries. By placing her focus on destroying the notorious President Snow and improving the overall quality of life for everyone in Panem, she helps the film pass the Bechdel test with flying colors. Further enhancing this film’s emphasis on the feminist ideology is the fact that the three most powerful leaders are all female — Katniss, self proclaimed “president” of the rebels Coin (Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”) and Commander Paylor (Patina Miller, “Madame Secretary”).
While Tributes (an oddly dark name for the series’ obsessed fans) are often overjoyed when their eyes finally glance over the last word of “Mockingjay,” they may be heartbroken as the end credits appear on screen, signifying the conclusion of a woman’s quest to change the world.