In 2012, the first installment of “The Hunger Games” franchise was released. Based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novel about Katniss Everdeen’s fight against the crooked government of President Snow, the film became almost immediately one of the biggest franchises since the Harry Potter series.
Three years, three films and countless deaths later, the franchise comes to an end with “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part II”, which forms the epic conclusion to a war that has been raging through Panem and fangirlland since 2012. A worthy conclusion, that is. As impressive and thrilling as it is, the film also leaves a bitter taste in your mouth when putting the fictional violence against the footage of the actual violence terrorizing our world today.
“Mockingjay – Part II” leaves off exactly where the first part ended, in District 13, where Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is recovering from his captivation in the Capitol and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is recovering from Peeta’s recovery. President Coin (Julianne Moore) is preparing for the final strike against Snow (Donald Sutherland) and sends Katniss into the midst of the battle. Together with a highly trained squad, including Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Cressida (Natalie Dormer), Katniss is on a mission to kill Snow and end this war once and for all. But what if Snow is not the real enemy? And what if the price for justice is too high to pay?
The greatest, but perhaps also the most terrifying, part of “Mockingjay – Part II” is the film’s realism. The film actively – and very successfully – aim to visualize the horrors of war as realistically as possible. Of course, “Mockingjay – Part II” remains a PG-13 film, so some of the violence described in Collins’ novel has been cut out. Nevertheless, all the cruelties Katniss and her squad have to face cut sharp and deep. The action scenes are both thrilling as they are shocking – exactly as they should be.
A big part of this the film’s realism comes from its main star: Jennifer Lawrence. The visuals might be stunning, the plot might be brilliant, the message might be shocking, but it would all mean nothing if Lawrence would not have carried it single-handedly. Just like Katniss is the face of Panem’s revolution, is Lawrence the face of “The Hunger Games”. She portrays the part with so much feeling, so much credibility, it’s impossible to take your eyes off of her. Especially one of the final scenes hits the hardest, when Katniss realizes exactly how much she has lost in her battle for justice. She cries and it’s not the pretty film crying we see so much, it’s the ugly crying. Lawrence puts so much emotion in the scene, where she pushes her character literally over the edge, before pulling her back and finding peace with herself.
Another very important aspect of “Mockingjay – Part II” is the fact that actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who portrayed the character of Plutarch Heavensbee, died before his final scene was shot. This led to a lot of speculation: how would the filmmakers deal with Hoffman’s character now that the actor could not portray him anymore? A possible solution was to create a hologram of the actor, which would artificially be added to the scene. Fortunately, the filmmakers did not decide to do it this way, but solve the problem in the simplest and, possibly, best way possible: Plutarch’s speech, which was originally given by Hoffman himself, was now presented in the form of a letter, written by Haymitch (Woody Harrelson). This did give the scene the right emotional impact, although it would have been best of Hoffman could have given the speech himself, because no one could have portrayed the complex character of Plutarch quite like him.
“Mockingjay – Part II” turned out to be complex film, with Jennifer Lawrence as its stunning center point. This film would not have been as impressive as it is without the reality Lawrence brings to both the character of Katniss and the story. “The Hunger Games” have come to an end, but Katniss’ story of will remain in our minds, especially against the backdrop of current events.