I have a confession to make: I didn’t like Mockingjay that much.
It was the weakest book in The Hunger Games series, but I was driven to finish it by an obsessive desire to know what happened to the people of Panem.
So, my expectations for the fourth movie in the The Hunger Games franchise were not high. It turns out though, that watching The Hunger Games movies is actually the inverse of reading the books, and Mockingjay Part 2 is an engaging, thrilling, and importantly restrained end to the franchise.
First, you need to be up to date.
Before we get started Spoiler Alert! For all the Hunger Games books and movies. All of them.
Katniss Everdeen is a kid from the coal-mining district of fascist future-world Panem. She volunteers to take the place of her little sister Prim in the annual Hunger Games, a deadly competition that pits kids from the 12 districts against each other in a fight to the death. Katniss and fellow district 12 tribute Peeta Mellark manage to co-win the games through the cultivation of a love story. Their victory undermines the Capitol and makes dictator-in-chief President Snow, very very unhappy.
During their victory tour of the districts, people begin to revolt against Snow and the Capitol, taking inspiration from Katniss and using her Mockingjay call to signify their defiance.
Snow plots to kill Katniss. He devises a different format for the next Hunger Games, forcing Katniss and Peeta back into the arena, alongside other former victors. But rebels hijack the games and bring Katniss to safety. Peeta is left behind to be tortured and brainwashed.
The rebels are led by President Coin, and are hidden in the remains of thought-destroyed district 13. They embark on a propaganda campaign using Katniss as their symbol of freedom and the people of the districts eventually rise up. Panem, at the end of Mockingjay Part 1, is in revolt.
Peeta and fellow victor Johanna Mason are rescued from the capitol and brought back to district 13. Where unstable, brainwashed Peeta tries to kill Katniss.
Also there is a boy from district 12 called Gale. He loves Katniss. Katniss doesn’t know whether she loves him or Peeta.
Which brings us to Mockingjay Part 2.
You had better know the backstory before you go in, because this movie isn’t going to hold your hand while you get up to speed. There’s no unnecessary exposition at all. It is tightly plotted and edited, and is all the better for it.
Jennifer Lawrence is great. I hate Katniss. She is a terrible, selfish, ridiculous person and I don’t understand why anyone would rally around her. Lawrence manages to find a way to make her less awful, and despite myself I want her to succeed. Her performance is nuanced and clever.
One of the best things about a franchise is the rapport that actors develop while filming that translates onto the screen. The Harry Potter cast had it. Daniel Craig and Judi Dench just got better as Bond and M with each film they made together. As core characters Peeta, Gale Hawthorne, Haymich Abernathy, Effie Trinket, and Katniss, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Lawrence have it too.
The team that pranks together… stays together? (Post continues after video.)