I can’t say that I was completely blown away by the final installment in The Hunger Games franchise. The movie felt a little choppy, jumped around in a few places, and had a habit of throwing characters at us without any kind of proper introduction. As Mockingjay was the only book in the franchise that I didn’t finish reading in its entirety, I found its second installment to be the most confusing of all the movies. I knew how it was going to end and I knew which characters were going to die beforehand thanks to Wikipedia, but I shouldn’t have had to rely on that in order to know who people were.
But fear not, people who really want to see Mockingjay, I would not say that the movie is all bad. Sure, it’s choppy and rushed, but it still had all the excitement that I had come to expect from it, and there were more than a few places that caused me to jump a little in my seat.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at Mockingjay Part 2. Spoilers up ahead.
Picking up where the last movie left off, Katniss is recovering from Peeta’s attempt on her life and coming to terms with the fact that he has been brainwashed into thinking she’s a mutt (genetically engineered monster). President Coin doesn’t want her on the front lines during the invasion of the Capitol, but Katniss sneaks herself there on a cargo ship anyway. Now unable to send her back to District 13 that the other fighters have seen her, President Coin has to consent to her taking part in the battle.
Katniss, along with Gale, Finnick, Boggs, the film crew, and a few others, must now navigate their way through a booby-trapped Capitol. Making matters even harder, President Coin sends a still-recovering Peeta to them, because she wants the film crew to get some good promotional shots to keep moral up. Navigating the traps and looking after Peeta is no easy feat, and Katniss’s team loses quite a few people along the way, including Finnick and Boggs. Eventually, the survivors end up within a couple blocks of President Snow’s mansion, and Katniss and Gale don disguises to blend in with Capitol refugees in order to get close.
Unfortunately, the citizens she and Gale are hiding among are bombed—by what looks like a Capitol aircraft. This attack causes the Capitol to turn on President Snow and issue a surrender. While this should be good news, because it ends the war, Katniss’s sister Prim, who was working as a medic, was caught and killed in the explosion. A captured Snow later tells Katniss that he wasn’t the one who bombed his own citizens—he’s evil enough to kill children, but not without reason, and had no reason to attack his own people, when he was about to issue a surrender himself regardless. The person behind the bombing was none other than President Coin, who framed Snow in order to get the Capitol to turn on him.
During Snow’s execution, Katniss shoots Coin with an arrow instead, for Prim. The movie ends with her living in exile away from the Capitol with Peeta, in the ruins of District 12. The last scene takes place in the future after they’ve had two children and shows them living life peacefully.
I would say that I liked this movie overall, but it does highlight some of the franchise’s more glaring issues. One long-standing complaint about The Hunger Games that I hear over and over again is that Katniss’s character is useless. The entire story is her being manipulated by people into doing things she doesn’t want to and into being a symbol for the war. This is something that I never thought was particularly fair to Katniss’s character. The story is just as much about her mental state and recovery and about the horrors of an oppressive government as it is about the Districts fighting for freedom. The events in the first three movies could not have happened without Katniss, so this was a complaint that I never put much thought to, until now.
The struggles that Katniss and everyone else on her team go through this movie don’t actually matter to the narrative at large. The outcome of the war would have been the same regardless. Katniss starts a mission to kill President Snow, but she doesn’t make it to his mansion before the bombs go off. The Capitol surrender has nothing to do with her actions—in fact, she’s knocked out by the explosion during the war’s end. Everything that Katniss and the others go through is completely isolated from the greater narrative.
The movie was also really fast paced in some areas and it felt like it didn’t quite know what it was doing sometimes. I was excited to see that Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones) was in this movie, playing Commander Lyme, a former Hunger Games Victor. But the movie doesn’t really do anything with her. She’s in it for all of one minute, and we never learn anything about her character. I can’t recall if the movie even remembered to name her, let alone tell us she was a former Victor. At the movie’s end, we see all the current surviving Victors, and Lyme isn’t among them. I know this happens in the books as well, which implies that she died somehow, but without any kind of given backstory to who she was, her inclusion in the movie felt kind of pointless.
While I had hoped to see more of Lyme, since I was fascinated by her from what I did read in the books, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of screentime Plutarch’s character had. His actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, sadly passed away last year in the middle of filming. It was very clear watching this movie that most of his scenes had already been shot, and so his passing didn’t affect the story all that much. Plutarch was another character that I loved, and I think his actor did a fantastic job with him. May he rest in peace.
Despite these problems, Katniss’s struggles through the Capitol were exciting, and the deaths her comrades suffer do continue to show how evil the Capitol is. Even during the final battle in the war and the invasion of their own land, the Capitol still sets up traps in the city in order to turn a game out of the deaths of their enemies. These deaths were all captured on camera, and every night, the Capitol aired a “fallen Tribute” segment, which just drove home how unconcerned it was over the deaths. It goes to show the Capitol’s complete lack of respect for the loss of life and the horrors of war.
At one point, Katniss and her team are in an area that gets flooded by oil. One person falls into the oil in their attempts to get away, and the Capitol strings up his body to show it off. Another person in her group is incinerated by what otherwise looked like a normal ceiling light. Most of the people in her team are ripped apart by mutts down in the sewers. In some places, the sewer scene felt almost like it belonged in a horror film.
And all the while, the characters are still dealing with Peeta’s internal conflict and his mental struggle to figure out what’s real or not. While I’m not too impressed that nothing the characters do matter to the overall conflict, when it comes to personal stakes, this movie has a lot going for it. It handles our characters’ grief and PTSD fairly well. This is one of the few franchises that has numerous representation for disabled people, especially if they’re mentally ill. On top of that, we also get a good amount of screentime with Pollux, who has to communicate through sign language due to being a former Avox. I was upset at the previous film for not doing more to explain what the Avoxes were, but this film delves more into that and what kinds of things they suffered through. While I am not happy about some of the franchise’s decisions—such as not amputating Peeta’s leg—it has done a really good job with what it did choose to work with.
If you were interested in seeing this movie, you should still go see it. I may not have liked this movie as much as I hoped I would, but it’s definitely something I wouldn’t mind rewatching a few more times, especially for characters like Pollux. Despite its problems, I think it’s still worth seeing.