The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
Directed by Francis Lawrence; written by Peter Craig and Danny Strong
Based on the novel by Suzanne Collins
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Clafin, Donald Sutherland, and Julianne Moore
136 minutes; USA, 2015.
As civil war rages between the Districts and Capitol City, Katniss Everdeen faces her ultimate challenge. Determined to put an end to the conflict with President Snow (the man who is also responsible for the tortures that apparently have changed Peeta forever), once and for all, Katniss wages on with a group of comrades through streets of the capital that are strewn with traps and enemies. Before the end can come, more suffering, sacrifice, compromise and innocent death must occur, and politics will prove to be even more insidious than war…
It all ends with a fourth chapter created more for reasons of profit than narrative necessity (the last book of Collins’ trilogy is split into two films, the first of which was released last year). The young adult warrior and pessimistic saga definitely puts Jennifer Lawrence in the hall of fame.
The first part of Mockingjay, (Katniss’ nom de guerre, which both ordains and condemns her to the fame and uncomfortable role the symbol represents) somehow took advantage of the very nature of a prologue by deepening the personality of its characters: from the sullen, and sometimes cynical protagonist, to her supporters and the various intriguing masterminds that surround her. Together, these characters heighten the level of tension between Katniss and her nemesis, President Snow. Following the film’s recurring theme, one would expect this second episode to have an epic ending as well as a conclusion laced with social criticism (the Panem society lives in a world of spectacularized violence and media communication) that challenges the relationship between violence and identity.
Unfortunately, Lawrence’s film primarily relies on a series of well-known faces (including that of Philip Seymour Hoffman — who died during the making of the film; this explains some alienating effects of his not appearing on screen), leaving little room for real meditation. This reliance very often reduces the film to a mere series of videogame-style clashes that are set in the semi-apocalyptic space of a city destroyed and strewn with traps.
In this context, Katniss’ moral dilemmas (although they are few, the heroine now appears to be guided by a spirit of revenge that the events of the film can only exacerbate), and the uncertainty between the two men in her life (the faithful Gale, who has perhaps become even more cynical than Katniss because of the circumstances; and the innocent Peeta, who, because of the torture he underwent, is transformed into a bomb ready to explode and injure those around him) are less exciting than expected.
In a very pessimistic view of humanity (that the final resolution fails to dissipate entirely), the last section of the film attempts to also offer a reflection on the aftermath of war. Even a just war, in fact, leaves winners and losers, unpaid dues, crimes to forgive or punish, revenges to be taken, and orders and societies to be rebuilt. Here, in a scenario that is already dense with the smoke from the war, it becomes even more difficult to dissipate the gloom.
Katniss’ choice will be, as usual, an extremely unsettling and problematic one for even the wisest viewer. In the world of Panem, where life is so fragile, death never seems to prompt a reflection that moves from existential to transcendent. The protagonists remain helpless in front of the challenge to give a meaning to death that goes beyond more deaths. This painful, and ultimately frustrating, message is what the Hunger Games bequeaths its fans with in its final, and certainly not memorable, chapter.
Viewer discretion is advised for several scenes of violence and disturbing deaths.
Laura Cotta Ramosino is a story editor for Rai Uno, the national Italian broadcaster, and contributes to several magazines and websites about cinema and television.